The Damned's classic third album Machine Gun Etiquette was issued by a different Damned to that which made 1977's Damned Damned Damned and Music For Pleasure. They split in early 1978 and guitarist/main songwriter Brian James set off to pastures new. On reforming, bassist Captain Sensible switched to guitar, his main instrument. Rat Scabies and Dave Vanian were back too. Bassist Algy Ward was new, had recently left the Saints and was from Croydon like Captain. The new Damned swiftly picked up momentum, first as Les Punks with stop-gap bassist Lemmy, then the Doomed and finally under their old name. Chiswick Records saw what a live draw they were and picked them up, initially with a one-off deal for the "Love Song" single. It charted. The album followed. It charted too.
Issued in November 1979, Machine Gun Etiquette was more than a valediction. A thrilling, wild ride, it took in hyper-speed, guitar-driven pop, psychedelic pop and surreal pop songs drawing from the girl's comic Bunty and Vanian's fascination with Hollywood and horror. Pop, though, was what the album was about. Tunes. Whether with the hard-edged anthem "Noise, Noise, Noise" (featuring members of the Clash on vocals; they were recording London Calling at the same studio booked by the Damned), the kinetic "Liar" or the astonishing, atmospheric "Plan 9 Channel 7," this new Damned prioritized melody.
There is no filler here: even the cover of the MC5's "Looking At You" slotted in without breaking the flow. Machine Gun Etiquette hit shops within weeks of London Calling and Public Image Limited's Metal Box, both benchmark albums showing how far their creators had moved beyond what had been defined as punk. The same applied to the Damned, who likewise recognized no musical barriers and did what they wanted: the true defining characteristic of punk. They didn't care about definitions anyway. Which is why this classic, essential album sounds as fresh now as it did in 1979.