The Vibrators – “The Albums 1979-85” (2018) review
The Vibrators – The Albums 1979-85 (Cherry Red Records, 2018)
As a follow up to 2017’s “The Epic Years 1976-1978” four disc box set, Cherry Red Records, UK, presents a continuation of British punk rocker,band, The Vibrators’ catalog, with “The Albums 1979-85” another four disc set. This second installment contains three albums released by the group as well as demos recorded for an unreleased third album and single sides and demos recorded by two short lived versions of the band between 1979 and 1981.
Following two albums for Epic Records, The Vibrators took a break. Guitarist/vocalist Ian “Comochran and drummer/vocalist Jon “Eddie” Edwards were joined by ex-Electric Chair guitarist Greg Van Cook and ex-Front bassist Ben Brierly and this foursome recorded nine tracks for an album that went unreleased. Among the demos is an interesting punk number titled “Pushin’ Too Hard.” The tune, however, is an original and not a cover of Sky Saxon and The Seeds signature track. This guitar driven version of the band also left behind such jewels as “Fighter Pilot” a hard rocker, featuring hard rocking guitars with a punk edge topped off by some incendiary feedback. Also of note is “Stitch You Up” reminiscent of the Clash/Mott The Hoople with its driving guitars and a soaring solo. The album was aborted, however, and the demos have not seen light of day until “The Albums 1979-85” and are indeed a real treat.
In 1982 the original lineup of Comochran, Edwards, bassist/vocalist Pat Collier. And guitarist/vocalist John Ellis released a single “Baby Blue” b/w “”Dragnet” which reached #10 on the Indie charts, the a-side being a re-recording of their debut Epic single, while the b-side had a Sex Pistols feel and was filled with roaring guitars. The single was followed by their comeback album, 1983’s “Guilty” an interesting mix of band originals and a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” which had long been a staple of the band’s live set. The album also includes the screaming rocker “We Name The Guilty” which was recorded and released in an alternate version as the b-side to the band’s next single “Hang Ten” an interesting instrumental number with a driving bass line pushing the beat.
1984’s “Alaska 127” has a much more accessible, at times almost pop punk, feel and could easily have been a big seller for the band. From its opening track, “Amphetamine Blues: the band shows its melodic side, while maintaining a persistent guitar riff. “Somnabulist” has a hard driving, building beat, but also features vibes and a catchy hook. “Baby Blue Eyes” was released as a single, and contains even more melodic vocals, a great hook and adds a tasty guitar solo. The group quickly switches back to punk mode with “Peepshow” with its waves of sound, again supplemented by vibes. Other tunes of note are the hard driving, guitar driven punk rocker “Jesus Always Lets You Down” and the feedback drenched “Mx America: with its repeated vocal chorus and another screaming guitar solo. The album’s twelve tracks are indicative of The Vibrator’s versatility, mixing tunes with commercial appeal with classic punk rockers, such as the LP’s two closing numbers, “Flash Flash Flash” a short, one minute, forty eight second, racing, feedback filled number and “Punish Me With Knives” a more traditional punk rocker featuring a driving lead guitar.
The Vibrator’s fifth studio album, fittingly titled “Fifth Amendment” appeared in 1985, its twelve tracks again a nice mix of melodic, pop flavored punk and more traditional straight up punk rock. The album’s opening track “Blown Away By Love” features a harmonic sound with commercial sensibilities, with a nice mix of keyboards and guitars topped off by another killer guitar solo. The band quickly switches back to punk mode with “Rip Up The City” filled with roaring guitars. The Vibrators display a new wavish sound with “Tomorrow Is Today” which has a Cars’ like feel. The band even features a flamenco influenced track, the slower, mid-tempo, almost balladish “Wipe Away” before giving way to another driving rocker “Too Late For Love.” There is a Talking Heads’ vibe in the air with “Running Right Into Your Heart” which features more inspired lead guitar work, showing the growth of the band musically. “Crazy Dream” has a gorgeous guitar intro, and clean, crisp vocals and guitars. It would have been an excellent choice as a single. The LP’s highlight, however, is its closer, the heavy rocking “Criminal” featuring loads of feedback and a heavy rock feel while maintaining a melodic quality. “Fifth Amendment” was to be the last album recorded by the original lineup of The Vibrators.
The fourth and final disc of the set opens with the nine demos for the unreleased third album, performed by the short lived version of the band mentioned earlier. The set closes with two singles and five unreleased demos recorded by yet another incarnation of the band featuring Jon “Eddie” Edwards, joined by Phil Ram, Adrian Wayatt and Adrian Woodcock, opening with the Spencer Davis Group cover “Gimme Some Lovin’” b/w the guitar driven “Power Cry” and “Disco In Mosco” with its chugging guitar and Cars’ like feel b/w “Take A Chance,” a short and sweet rocker with guitars to the fore. The set closes with five tracks that are dominated by driving guitars show the promise offered by this quartet. However, the band’s original lineup reformed soon and the demos have remained unreleased until now.
“The Albums 1979-85” comes in a clamshell box, with its four discs housed in mini-LP sleeves, and includes a 16 page full color booklet with liner notes from the band’s website and filled with photos of the band and album artwork. The fifty nine track collection sounds better than ever thanks to the mastering job by James Bragg. All in all a most interesting collection which will be of interest to not only fans of The Vibrators, but to punk fans in general and comes highly recommended.
– Kevin Rathert
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