One band more than most never seem to be mentioned among the 70s Punk Instigators that changed the music world with a kick in the balls, even the 40 years celebration past them by as an important musical influence of that time. The Vibrators seem to fly under everyone’s radar when it comes to Punk music, but mention their first 2 albums and you can bet songs such as Baby Baby, Whips & Furs, Troops of Tomorrow or Automatic Lover are in most people minds as a classic tune. Although later they struggled to reach the heights of those early songs they still delivered sporadically on later albums, giving us Dragnet and the exceptional Amphetamine Blue amongst others. Formed around 1976 the band have had many changes to the line-up, with the original Drummer John “Eddie” Edwards still pounding the skins today in a three piece with Pete Honkamaki (Bass) and Nigel Bennett who just recently replaced Darrell Bath on Guitar. The band are relentless in their touring schedule, traveling the world in what must seem like the eye of a storm, visiting places no other punk bands have ventured as well as the regular slots that come up every year. This year they embarked on the new way to release an album with starting a pledge campaign to raise the funds needed, the successful project enabled them to release this new album “Past, Present and Into the Future”. As the title suggests the album pulls together a few previous members of the band Including Knoxs (Ian Carnochan) the original singer with the band, as well as John Ellis, Gary Tibbs and Darrell Bath contributing on the new tracks.
We start of with the first track “Loose Change” which deceives the listener for a second with the plink plonk intro, before Knox puts us at ease with his unmistakeable English drawl so synonymous with the Vibrators sound. It’s a slower tempo offering deliberating over life’s drudgery, where you’re not getting back what’s expected with some nice harmonies fitting in around the despair. The classic Vibrators sound comes through more in the next track, “Rock N Roll Rescue” gives a hint of rockabilly guitar around the track with a more upbeat pace. The title of the track may have come from the shop Knox has in London, selling all manner of things found and donated which no doubt has some 40 years of Vibrators memorabilia inside. Some sci-fi effects are transported out through the speakers via “Black Star”, some intricate guitar chords and arrangements also litter the track to great effect as the lyrics ponder over some mysterious beauty of the night. A more Punk driven track comes at you in the way of “Strangers Never (Friends Forever) where a constant Bass and Drums lay a platform for an antagonising guitar and echoing vocal, it’s a faster more ruthless track that has more bite to it than the previous songs. The dirty sleazy sound of “Wild Cheetah” takes you back a few years when this was the sound coming over from the USA, it has a southern sounding guitar that plays with the mind sending into another world. The reason for this might be that it was penned by Darrell Bath, someone who looks like he is taken away to another planet while playing the guitar and is a mesmerising performer on stage immersing himself in his music which I have always loved. Fortunately being a musician allows you to do this without being questioned, because if he were to have become an accountant there might have been a case for wearing a jacket that buckles at the back while living in a room with soft walls.
Moving on to “Wrapped Cat” where influence from times gone by come out at you, well before my time but this reminded me of the so called Skiffle groups for some reason with a rocking country guitar at the forefront of the song. It shouldn’t really work from my description, but seems to pull it of rolling along like a 50s jive. A nice intro guides us to “Hand of Mercy” with some passionately delivered lyrics, a meandering tune that has a constant back beat intermittent with the dreamy guitar chords derived from the 60s. Although it’s a slower tempo its still an uplifting tune despite the subject matter being that of struggle and confusion. On a very sobering subject is a song called “Please Mr Cancer” describing the suffering and treatment of the killer disease , It has some harsh hitting lyrics that question and plead with drums reminiscent of a runaway heartbeat. It’s a subject that may be uncomfortable for some and very personal, but non the less a subject that is not often brought to sound. The almost tribal drumming relentlessly hurtles you forwards through your treatment, with harmonious backing and quailing guitar underpinning the anguished pleading vocal.
The Vibrators will be one of those bands that are recognised for some of the exceptional sounds they have created, but I feel this will only happen when they hang up the guitars and pack the drums away. They are the type of band that needs to be rediscovered or unveiled to a younger generation, the undoubted classic tunes from their early albums are not given the recognition they deserve in most areas discussing the subject of influences of early Punk and seem to be forgotten. Unfortunately this album does not reach the heights of those blistering tracks that still get a crowd sweating around the world, It’s an album that’s got some good songs and if you’re a fan of The Vibrators sound then go get it.