This is the first of two solo albums the Damned's guitarist Captain Sensible released on A&M in the early 80s. (This came out originally in 1982; the other release, Power of Love, followed a year later.) It finds Sensible, in collaboration with New Musik leader/producer Tony Mansfield, exploring a much more poppy style of music than would have been allowed within the confines of the Damned. The songs for the most part are synth-based, however they are arranged and played in such a way that the songs do not sound dated. There are other instruments included thoroughout: guitars by Sensible and on one tune, "Brenda", by Robyn Hitchcock, an occasional collaborator during this time. Indeed, one number, a cover of the 1920's standard "Nobody's Sweetheart", uses a trad jazz group, the Beale Street Jazz Band, as the accompaniment. The best known songs on here are the two hit singles: "Happy Talk", the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from the musical South Pacific that gave Sensible a surprise #1 UK hit in 1982, and its followup, the jokey rap "Wot?" based, according to the interview with Sensible in the liner notes, on an actual incident in Milwaukee on a Damned tour. However, the Captain saves the best for last, with "Croydon", a melancholy ode to his home town, a suburb of London. This sounds for all the world like a late 60s psych ballad updated for the synth pop 80s, Sensible showing a mixture of pride and regret about his roots. Backing vocals on this song and the rest of the album are provided by punk/pop trio Dolly Mixture. BTW, they, along with Sensible, Mansfield, and Hitchcock, all appear on the cover, a funny rendering of the album title.
If the reissue was just the album proper it would be worth the purchase. However the bonus tracks, mostly b-sides except for one unissued song, add value here as they show a wider picture of Sensible's musical POV. "It" is a slight piece, mainly Captain thanking people for buying the "Happy Talk" single followed by an invitation to all to think about the same thing (a few seconds of silence, then Sensible saying "Great!"). The next piece, "I Can't Stand It", is terrific, a Merseybeat/punk number that Sensible recorded in his bedroom with guitars and a cheap drum machine. It wouldn't have fit on either Women and Captains First or the contemporary Damned release, Strawberries, but it's a fine number that has been deservedly resurrected here. A funny ending, as well, as he noodles on guitar to an indefinite conclusion, then the tape breaks up, followed by the reverb to the last note of "Happy Talk". Just as fascinating is "Strawberry Dross", the b-side of "Wot?". This is a collection of unfinished scraps of songs, all anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds in length, that run the gamut from guitar/drum machine raveups a la "I Can't Stand It", to piano instrumentals, to psych/folk hippy musings. There's also a running joke in that a few of the segments have Sensible saying "sounds great", apparently a reference to Chiswick Records head Roger Armstrong's standard response to the Damned while they were trying out songs for their Machine Gun Etiquette album. More wacky humor comes to the fore in "Damned On 45", a "Stars on 45" style disco medley of Damned and Sensible songs that hangs together better than you'd think. This is the one track here that's chronologically out of place, as it was the b-side of "Glad It's All Over" from the Power Of Love album, and probably should have been placed there. The disc finishes with Sensible paying tribute to two more of his childhood influences, "Jimi Hendrix's Strat" (b-side of "Croydon") and the previously unissued "Joe Meek".
If you like the Damned, or if you like circa 1982 synth pop and want to try something that falls more on the fringes of that style, give this disc a try. You'll get to hear one of the great maverick performers of the last 30 years. Nice interview with the man in the liner notes as well.