SXSW Film Review: The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead

A “sensibly” chaotic love song to the original Britpunk pioneers

Everyone knows the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and maybe even The Buzzcocks, but get past those seminally codified UK punk acts and The Damned tend to get lost in the safety-pin pogo-shuffle. Thank goodness for director Wes Orshoski’s (Lemmy) blistering, hilarious, and terrifically neat, neat, neat doc.

The band themselves called it “The Curse of the Damned.” Consider: They released the very first punk vinyl 7” single, “New Rose” (the B-side was a spastic cover of The Beatles “Help”), five weeks before the Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” hit the cobbles, their debut LP was produced by no less than Nick Lowe, and in 1977 they became the first UK punk band to tour the U.S., helping in so many ways to create the early sounds of non-CBGB’s-based melody-infused punk. (Notably, both future Pretender Chrissie Hynde and Motorhead’s Lemmy were early members.) But growing enmity between band members Captain Sensible, original guitarist/songwriter Brian James, and drummer Rat Scabies led to spats and ashes. Orshoski’s energetically entertaining doc puts the band back in context and front and center where they rightfully belong, rocking “Machine Gun Etiquette” and celebrating “Noise, Noise, Noise.” Spectacular gobs of both archival and new footage rounds out this “History of the (Damned) World (Pt. 1”). To be continued, dammit.

The Damned: Don’t Your Wish that We Were Dead

24 Beats Per Second, World Premiere
Thursday, March 19, 11am, Stateside
Friday, March 20, 4pm, Satellite Venue: Marchesa

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