1/ King Mob (Damage Manual) 6.50 2/ Age of Urges (Damage Manual) 4.33 3/ Top Ten Severed (Damage Manual) 4.29 4/ The Peepshow Ghosts (Damage Manual) 4.57 5/ Sunset Gun (303 edit) (Damage Manual) 3.03 6/ Stateless (Delusional Mix) (Damage Manual) 5.37 7/ Expand (Damage Manual,Fraser) 4.41 8/ Denial (Damage Manual) 5.49 9/ Broadcasting (Damage Manual) 6.26 10/ Sunset Gun (Fully Monty Sunny Orb Up Mix) (Damage Manual) 5.16 11/ Blame and Demand (Wobble/Laswell Hybrid) (Damage Manual) 5.29 12/ Damage Addict (Laswell Mix) (Damage Manual,Fraser) 5.14 13/ Stateless (Laswell Mix) (Damage Manual) 6.33 Original tracks recorded at Berwick Street Studios, London Additional recording at The Fortress 2, The Mattress Factory UK and The Waiting Room Vocals recorded by Chris Greene at ASI Chicago Drums on track 3 recorded at ASI Chicago by Chris Greene Additional guitars and drums on track 6 recorded at The Waiting room by Jason McNinch Produced by Martin Atkins Additional post production on track 12 by Martin Atkins and Geordie Walker Tracks 2,3,4,5 and 7 engineered by Jason McNinch Track 6 engineered by Martin Atkins Track 10 engineered by Mighty Simon Phillips and Orb Tracks 1,8,9,12 and 13 mixed by Bill Laswell Tracks 2,5,6 and 7 mixed by Martin Atkins Track 3 mixed by Martin Atkins and Geordie Walker Track 4 mixed by Geordie Walker and Jason McNinch Track 10 mixed at Black Hole Studio by SiP + Satan Track 11 intro and outro mixed by Jah Wobble; middle bit mixed by Bill LaswellChris Connelly: vocals; Jah Wobble: bass; Geordie Walker: guitar; Martin Atkins: drums, loops; Lee Fraser: additional synths (2), synths (5,7,8), drum programming (7); Charlotte Glasson: saxophone (3), violins (8); BobDog Catlin (7): sitar; Jesse De La Pena (9): record scratch.
Strings on track 8 arranged by Martin Atkins.
2000 - Invisible Records (USA), INV169 (CD) 2000 - Dream Catcher (Europe), CRIDE 31 (CD)
If you look up "supergroup" in your imaginary dictionary of rock terms, you'll probably arrive at the same definition as I did: "An ensemble of has-beens given to narcissistic often stadium friendly displays of inconsequential and anachronistic 'musicianship,' generally performed with the aid of walking frames, Rogaine and Viagra."
Bearing that in mind, can we expect anything seriously worthwhile and relevant from the Damage Manual, a band comprising PiL alumni Jah Wobble and Martin Atkins, Killing Joke's Geordie Walker and ex-Ministry/Revolting Cocks frontman Chris Connelly?
Of course we can. The Damage Manual are not your common or garden geezers. When Guardian journalist Dave Simpson recently observed that Wobble et al. were "men who look like they've spent several years in institutions," he had in mind not old people's homes but, rather, correctional or psychiatric facilities. Apparently, this album was to have been called Music To Be Murdered By and, in keeping with the spirit of that discarded title, from start to finish it's a tour de force of total sonic disturbance that makes for brilliantly uneasy listening.
And about time too. The Damage Manual are making music dangerous again and showing up a current crop of Brit bands who are getting young enough to be their offspring as (mostly) a bunch of bed-wetters and bores.
While they boast some seriously heavyweight musical pedigrees, the Damage Manual strike a compelling balance between their own tried and tested signatures (Wobble's earth-moving bass, Atkins' punishing drums, Geordie's grinding guitar) and a new synthesis of all the above, supplemented, of course, with Connelly's vocals that alternate between the maniacally urgent and the quietly melodic and threatening. On top of that, you can factor in a Pandora's box of scratches, samples and synths as well as the mixing skills of Bill Laswell and the Orb.
From the crashing menace of the opening track ("King Mob") onward, this album is a beautiful monster. For the most part, it hinges on a careful building and working through of textures and rhythms, albeit never in a pedestrian or predictable fashion. The insistent bass and relentless beat of "Denial" and the sheer drive of "Broadcasting," with its frenzied rush of drums and percussion that eventually let the bass and guitar in on the act are textbook exercises in a stand-off between craft and chaos. On the other hand, there are more rock-based, explosive tracks like "The Peepshow Ghosts" and the standout "Sunset Gun," that center on Geordie's abrasive, weaving guitar patterns and Atkins' Richter-scale drumming.
Britain's first post-punk, post-industrial, post-millennial supergroup restores some much needed credibility to a category that, since Cream, has been a polite way of saying "a load of boring old bollocks." This eponymous album shows that musicianship is not necessarily a dirty word, especially when it's shot through with such attitude and energy.
Wilson Neate (courtesy of the Pop Matters website)
The Damage Manual announced its presence with a promising, slightly more than listenable e.p. released this past Spring. Hopes have been high for the group, given its all-star pedigree, and despite the fact that, aside from one brilliant track, the e.p. seemed only a semi-impressive use of so much underused talent. And let's face it: what opened the door for the group was the fact that Martin Atkins, Geordie Walker, Jah Wobble and Chris Connelly, a team of old friends responsible for some of the most influential and envelope pushing music of the last two decades, has emerged from recent obscurity to save a miserably tepid rock scene. A veritable cavalry, they seemed. The e.p. did little more than defer the fulfillment of that expectation. Thankfully - triumphantly - the group's self-titled l.p. settles the group's account.
The Damage Manual might seem a tad anachronistic, though. Having risen from the ashes of the once great Chicago Trax industrial oeuvre makes it something of a museum piece, underlining the demise of the industrial scene worldwide, tinging the album's triumph with a hint of despair. If bands in the scene had been making albums this good five, six years ago, the whole thing might not have imploded.
But really, that's neither here nor there. Some albums are great because they focus the context in which they flower, and others are great because they succeed without any sort of context at all. And with the expiration of the third wave industrial scene, The Damage Manual becomes an example of that latter variety, springing up seemingly from nowhere with a sound that doesn't fit in quite anywhere. And when the current sound is such that acts like 'NSYNC and Britney Spears can actually contemplate the concept of career longevity, when P.O.D. and Limp Bizkit pass for "heavy" music, "not fitting in" suddenly becomes a really appealing option. Vive le difference. Vive le damage.
The group and the album succeed because they defy the conventions that normally constrain such projects. First off, the members have all worked together before in one group or another. Their coming together again, in this particular configuration, isn't so much a novelty as amusic junkie's big score. This network of relationships has given the band's chemistry time to mature and grow more refined. The album thus conveys the vibe of a band whose members know one another well enough, who feel secure enough in one another's styles and tendencies, to really stretch out, to let their guards down and just cut loose. Matched with Atkins's post-production studio wizardry and the skills of loop-guru Lee Fraser (of Sheep on Drugs, who release records through Atkins' record label), The Damage Manual has produced a collection of songs that feel totally fresh and familiar at the same time. An old band, a new sound. That's a remarkable feat in this era of endless rehash.
The album hits several high points. "Sunset Gun," the blistering Zeppelin-esque rocker that opened the band's introductory e.p., One which debuted in Spring 2000, sits near the middle of the full-length record, screaming out of the speakers with a short breakbeat drum loop intro courtesy of Fraser. Atkins roars in with his trademark drum pummeling, and Walker and Wobble slide in to join what becomes a full-throttle industrial stomp. With the addition of Connelly's calculated wails, " Gun" escalates into what very well may be the best hard rock song of the year, intricately textured yet unrelentingly intense. It's the sort of song that bears up and gains resonance under repeated play.
" Gun" follows another strong track, "Peepshow Ghosts," a mid-tempo rocker that finds Connelly, singing with wrenching intensity, belting out perhaps the best song of his career. "King Mob," the album's opening track, revisits the dub grooves that made the e.p. something of a snoozer, and ratchets up their impact until the track acquires a bludgeoning force. "Top Ten Severed" melds atmo drum 'n' bass with the balls out fury of post-millennial punk in a configuration that only a cadre of old pros like this could pull off with any sort of grace. In lesser hands, the conglomeration of styles would sound clumsy and contrived; The Damage Manual handles the chore with a skill that makes it seem obvious, an overdue revelation.
Maybe the key to the Manual's success is the lack of ego and real superstardom within the group. Each member has a cult following, to be sure, but the bands whose membership earned them their reputation have long since dropped off of everyone's radar. Today's crop of alt-rockers are even too young, too mellow or too ignorant to acknowledge the influence of PiL, Killing Joke and Ministry. But that just work's to the Manual's advantage. Atkins, Walker, Wobble and Connelly can't pretend like they'd rather be doing anything but making music right here, right now. And honestly, given everything the album's got going for it, you can't pretend that there's anything you'd rather be doing than listening to it. Right here. Right now. And over and over and over...
September 25, 2000
Sean Flinn (courtesy of the Choler Mag website)