Press Clippings and testimonials

Forgotten Stills of Doctor Caligari

The Doctors, Marquee

(Pete Sutton, NME, 1978)

The inventor of British existentialist rock is looming on the once-hallowed Marquee stage, singing songs of darkness and dismay, and getting showered with phlegm.

Did Jean-Paul Sartre ever suffer such problems?

It's the punx, who perhaps are waiting for Dave Vanian, speaking the only language they understand with practised aim.

Kid Strange and the band seem unconcerned. No stagey threads, no make-up, no trick lighting, no dry ice.

And no Urban Blitz either.

If you remember the Doctors of Madness from their Armageddon Revue style of a year ago, expect changes.

The new, stripped down, three-piece (musically, at least) Doctors rock with a power that the old version rarely achieved.

Minus violins, they're cut back to a jangly, ringing-metal rhythm section.

The musical focus is Stoner's bass, and the low, engine-room hum of his near melodies.

Peter DiLemma strikes his kit with brutal fury. Kid Strange, now a more than passable player, even by pre-punk standards, has a unique guitar sound - it could be down to his using a Vox Phantom - that avoids the usual screech and growl voices.

The music is the sound of animated machines, a danse macabre for the modern age, and, as Strange once put it, it's 'almost organic'. Almost.

It's achieved with a beautiful simplicity that yer actual punx usually miss.

Over this android music Strange yells and crows his lyrics, fragmented images of doom, madness, dispair, the whole end-of-the-world scrapbook, gleefully offering titallating glimpses of a bleak, ravaged landscape of ideas.

The hardcore punx, who've occupied the front of stage zone, gob and pogo devotedly, and clap politely between numbers.

It's mostly stuff from the new album - the title track, 'Sons of Survival', with a tape loop replacing Urban's nagging violin monotone, chugs mightily.

'Into the Strange' hints at mania, 'Back From The Dead' confirms it.

Doctors fans of longer standing call out for numbers from the older albums, and get 'Out', 'In Camera' (the Sartre connection?) and a few others.

Halfway through comes 'Network', a song destined to become an anthem. A ragged funeral march, it builds to a repeated chant, 'Is this just another Network...'

Enter Dave Vanian to join in the rousing refrain.

His role in the band is still a little unclear. He wanders about the stage, making theatrical gestures, and shooting manic glances at band and audience, an anarchic mascot who adds a certain random menace.

His vocal contributions seem fairly insignificant, adding little power to Strange's and Stoner's harmonies. He has a verse or two to himself on 'Don't Panic England', a new, unrecorded song, and he's okay. Still, it's nothing like what he was used to in The Damned.

Visually, the effect is intriguing. Kid and Dave form a two loonies, welcome-to-the-asylum, front line. Mismatched heights, all blacks and whites, angular mad shadows - a forgotten still from The Cabinet of Dorctor Caligari.

It could develop into something spectacular. It's fun as it is.

Lots of encores: 'Kiss Goodbye Tomorrow', a lugubrious wisp of romanticism sung by Kid to solo guitar backing, followed by 'Cool' (subtitle 'Live in the Satin Subway', geddit?) merging into a bit of 'Waiting For My Man'.

And about a verse and a half of 'New Rose' - punx invade stage, stop play. Welcome to the madhouse, Doctors.


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