Tag Archives: Captain Sensible

The Sensible Gray Cells • So Long (7″)

Being a huge fan of The Damned and its longtime guitarist Captain Sensible, I was pretty excited to see that the man’s originally one-off side project, THE SENSIBLE GRAY CELLS, was making a new record. “So Long” (b/w “What’s the Point of Andrew?”) is the lead single from the upcoming longplayer (called Get Back Into the World on the back of this single), and it’s a respectable 45.

The group, made up of Sensible, ex-/current-Damned bassplayer Paul Gray and Marty Parrott on drums, put out an album in 2013 called A Postcard from Britain (with a different drummer, Ant Thickett), and it was pretty good. Not great – in fact, I really wanted it to be much better. I wanted it to rock with punk exuberance like the best of The Damned, and to have the sense of humor and fun that the best of Captain Sensible’s solo records had. It was marginally close, but no cigar. This new single, a teaser for another LP, is again, pretty good. Not great – it does showcase the Captain’s standard political stance, which I generally agree with, but it just feels not quite finished. The song itself is a rockin’ number with a serviceable arrangement, but the lead vocal seems buried a bit and lacking what I’d call doneness (not sure it’s a word, but it is a button on my microwave oven). It’s lacking that exuberance and in-your-face delivery that makes a great single.

As this is a 7″ and I am likely to be reviewing its attendant LP, I’m keeping this short. “So Long” is enjoyable but I’d be inclined to play it a lot more if they give it a better mix for the album. I am asking, Sensible Gray Cells, for a better mix. As John Lennon (who was great, both dead and alive) once sang, “Don’t let me down!”

2.5/5 (Damaged Goods DAMGOOD538 [UK], 2020)

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Captain Sensible • Women And Captains First, The Power of Love [CD]

[Originally published 1/18/2010 on Skratchdisc]

FINALLY two of the greatest albums that mix rock and “synth pop” in a way that dumbs down neither have been issued on CD. CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, sometime guitarist for my favorite band of all time, The Damned, put these two out in the early ’80s, on the heels of his surprise hit “Happy Talk” (yes, from South Pacific!), as he took his turn at becoming a pop star. He had more than his 15 minutes, at least in Britain, and of course he’s been back with his punk chums for longer than a decade now, but these A&M elpees were never put out on CD until the 2000s, first as limited edition Japanese issues (with uncharacteristically mediocre mastering), and now these superb versions on Cherry Red. Women And Captains First came out in 1982 and featured not only the aforementioned hit, but the further single “Croydon” (a sublime tune about his childhood and growing up “cleaning toilets”), “Brenda,” and my personal fave, “Wot!” (which also charted). Tony Mansfield gets the producer credit for both albums, and on the first one especially he really did a fantastic job… great pop songs bolstered by production and arrangements that really bring out the uniqueness of Captain’s take on rock ’n’ roll. The Power of Love followed in 1984 with real great singles “Stop the World” and “I’m a Spider,” though the hits kinda trailed off. Whatever… this was another good one, though not quite as.

Cap’n went on to do more solo stuff, and eventually rejoined The Damned after former drummer Rat Scabies departed, and the band returned to former glories with 2001’s Grave Disorder. Sensible has slowed down on the release front, but hell, he did run for political office in the Blah! Party he formed in the UK, and he has been an active campaigner for animal rights and a lot more. These two slabs of early ’80s pop are proof that not everything that had a synth back then sucked.
5/5 (Women And Captains First), 3/5 (The Power of Love)
(Cherry Red CDMRED 408, 409)

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Dead Men Walking • Easy Piracy

deadmenwalking_band_400pxwideI’m not gonna start this by trying to persuade you that Dead Men Walking are a supergroup, because they’re not—the last group that fit that description hasn’t made a record in over 25 years, and two of the guys aren’t even available to record again even if they wanted to. Besides, calling any group of musicians made up of people already known for other bands they’ve been in is just plain lazy. The only reason you read me using the term is because it’s already been used to describe these guys.

Made up of Captain Sensible from The Damned, Mike Peters of The Alarm, Slim Jim Phantom of Stray Cats, and Chris Cheney of The Living End, Dead Men Walking sound like a rock band with a lot of rockabilly and punk edges. And that’s what you’d expect considering the bands that got them to where they are today. There are a slew of great songs among the fifteen on Easy Piracy, the group’s first actual release. “The Weather Song” sounds like a rockin’ acoustic Damned song (it’s one of the few sung by Sensible), deadmenwalking_300pxwhile “Damned Damned Damned” starts off sounding like a take on Ramones’ “Teenage Lobotomy” until the melody kicks in. The lead off track “Rock and Roll Kills” has some great lyrics, like many of the songs here, while “Whatever Turns You On (Will Turn on You)” isn’t too shabby and wins the Best Song Title award for the album. I can go for “Dr. Henry,” too, but I need to do a little more research to tell you what it’s about. “Song for Eddie,” though, is definitely about rockabilly rebel Eddie Cochran (not the Heinz hit of yesteryear).

You can definitely hear each Dead Men Walking guy’s contribution to the band’s sound (especially if you already know their other bands), and that’s actually a good thing. Too often these “bands made up of dudes you know from other bands” suffer from trying to sound like “Triumph meets April Wine in an alley while Chilliwack channels Loverboy and Bryan Adams gets high.” (A big hello going out to all of my Canadian readers!)

I think this is an album I’ll listen to more than a handful of times. Let’s face it—how often can you say that these days?

3/5 (Slimstyle)

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