Stills of Doctor Caligari
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.
Jean-Paul Sartre ever suffer such problems?
the punx, who perhaps are waiting for Dave Vanian, speaking
the only language they understand with practised aim.
Strange and the band seem unconcerned. No stagey threads, no
make-up, no trick lighting, no dry ice.
no Urban Blitz either.
you remember the Doctors of Madness from their Armageddon Revue
style of a year ago, expect changes.
new, stripped down, three-piece (musically, at least) Doctors
rock with a power that the old version rarely achieved.
violins, they're cut back to a jangly, ringing-metal rhythm
musical focus is Stoner's bass, and the low, engine-room hum
of his near melodies.
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.
music is the sound of animated machines, a danse macabre for
the modern age, and, as Strange once put it, it's 'almost organic'.
achieved with a beautiful simplicity that yer actual punx usually
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.
hardcore punx, who've occupied the front of stage zone, gob
and pogo devotedly, and clap politely between numbers.
mostly stuff from the new album - the title track, 'Sons of
Survival', with a tape loop replacing Urban's nagging violin
monotone, chugs mightily.
the Strange' hints at mania, 'Back From The Dead' confirms it.
fans of longer standing call out for numbers from the older
albums, and get 'Out', 'In Camera' (the Sartre connection?)
and a few others.
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...'
Dave Vanian to join in the rousing refrain.
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
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.
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
could develop into something spectacular. It's fun as it is.
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'.
about a verse and a half of 'New Rose' - punx invade stage,
stop play. Welcome to the madhouse, Doctors.
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