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The Damned - Final Damnation
Warner Vision/Warner Vision . R4 . COLOR . 71 mins . M15+ . PAL


Seminal UK punk band The Damned have a special place in pop history, being the very first British band to release a punk album, Damned Damned Damned, in 1977. While the ink was still drying on big label contracts for stable-mates the Sex Pistols and The Clash, The Damned were out there making it happen; earning a raft of loyal fans with their explosive stage shows. It wasnít long, however, before their competition caught them and eclipsed them; relegating The Damned to the pages of punk nostalgia even before they got started. Ironically, in one form or another, The Damned outlasted both the Sex Pistols and The Clash by more than a few years.

While the remainder of the seventies saw The Damned put out two more albums that weren't nearly as influential or as popular as the first, Music For Pleasure (1977) and Machine Gun Etiquette (1979), the early eighties saw the band reinvent itself as a goth-rock outfit, releasing the album Phantasmagoria in 1985. With a constant stream of line-up changes and internal wrangling over the years, The Damned finally called it a day in 1989.

During the '90s, the band continually reunited in various incarnations, playing concerts across England and functioning as a sort of punk-rock nostalgia act. Filmed at Londonís Town and Country Club in 1988, Final Damnation documents one such reunion show, with the original line-up of Dave Vanian, Rat Scabies, Captain Sensible and Brian James reunited for the first time since the late seventies. The set list reads as follows:

See Her Tonight
Neat Neat Neat
Born to Kill
I Fall
Fan Club
New Rose
I Feel Alright
I Just Canít Be Happy Today
Wait for the Blackout
Melody Lee
Noise Noise Noise
Love Song
Smash it Up
Looking at You
The Last Time

With Brian James remaining with the gang for the first nine tracks (including the first ever UK punk single New Rose), he finally leaves the stage as the band leaves their punk roots for their goth rebirth. Joined by Brian Merrick and Roman Jug, the remaining numbers include the goth classic I Just Canít be Happy Today. Rejoined by Brian for a cover of the MC5's classic Looking at You, the boys head towards the encore The Last Time.

For me, Last Damnation was a musical education. What I knew of The Damned I could sum up in one word - Eloise; the bandís mid-eighties cover of the Barry Ryan classic, their highest ever selling single, and to this day a staple goth anthem. But what I got was a dose of punk and goth history all rolled into one. I never knew just how well these boys could rock, but I certainly count myself as a convert now.


Despite opening with some of the nicest animated menus Iíve thus seen on a music release, the image quality to be found on Final Damnation is disappointing to say the least. The feature begins with some grainy archival footage of fans queuing for a Damned gig in what looks like the very early eighties. Itís black and white, itís grainy, and sadly the image doesnít improve as the concert proper begins. As The Damned's original line-up take the stage, despite good colour saturation and reasonable black level, the image is literally awash with macro-blocking and film grain. Early on, the haze from the lights is the main source of these compression artefacts, and while shadow detail is low, foreground detail remains reasonable. However, as we get further into the set list, macro-blocking begins to affect all areas of the image and detail reduces considerably. The results are a poor image to say the least that, whilst never unwatchable per-se, displays a quality that is only comparable to that of VHS tape. Indeed if I had to guess, Iíd say this transfer has been taken directly from a VHS master.

In terms of audio, the source material is again a limiting factor, and whilst Warner have provided us with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in addition to the original stereo, the material doesnít really transfer satisfactorily into the 5.1 space. With the front channels displaying little or no separation, while some of the sound is routed to the rear, the level displayed by the surround channels is quite low and the mix remains very front-dominant. The result is a soundstage that has been expanded somewhat, but not enough for the producers to have bothered. In fact, the original stereo mix is really quite reasonable, and with the trusty Prologic decoder turned off, it sounds wide and satisfyingly full. The fidelity is certainly a little low Ė by my ear a little less than CD quality - but all in all, the limitations in the audio and video presentations are in keeping with a DVD transfer from a video master.

In terms of extras, Warner have provided a selection of additional material to make up for the average source material.

  • Damned Story: Interview snippets with the various members of the band's many line-ups relate the story of the group; its inception, how the guys met each other, and the various ups and downs over the years.

  • Damned Biography: A commentary on highlights of the gig is presented by some cockney geezer. Reading it back from his notes, his presentation isnít so great, but hey, thatís rockĎníroll. This same commentary is played before each of the tracks when watching the feature and as visual accompaniment we get a few cuts from the gig, and a lot of this mysterious geezer sitting in a sound booth reading.

  • Brian James Interview: More information on the inception of the group and goings on in the early days of the punk movement Ė The Damned cutting the UKís first punk record, their onngoing competition with the Sex Pistols, being screwed over my Malcolm McLaren; all kinds of interesting anecdotes. A quite recent interview with the band's founding member and first casualty.

  • Damned Gallery: A montage of images from the group's long history, interspersed with the cover art and track listings from their many albums.

Whilst Final Damnation is certainly not the best music release on offer in our region, there should still be enough here to satisfy eager fans. There is a reasonable number of extras covering the history of the group, and despite the poor audio and video, this is a great gig from a band who helped to shape British pop.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1585
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  •   And I quote...
    "Whilst the audio and video is relatively poor, this is a great gig from a band who helped to shape British pop."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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