Rikki And The Last Days Of Earth: City Of The Damned (DJM)
Music critics enjoyed putting the boot into Rikki and the Last Days Of Earth, mainly due to the fact a number of them hailed from posho backgrounds, one journalist gleefully pointing out that the drummer was Eton educated and that, between them, the band had passed 32 ‘O’ Levels and 6 ‘A’ Levels.
Which, of course, automatically meant that they weren’t as good as a gang of guttersnipes who’d all lived in high-rises all their lives.
Or so some would have had you believe back in ’77, the same kind of folk that have just stopped listening to Kate Bush because she praised Theresa May – nowadays I seem pretty unusual in not feeling the need for artists to agree with my worldview.
Okay, maybe some of the Sounds and NME staff just judged singer Rikki Sylvan to be a dreadful poser and his group to be bandwagon jumpers.
I would disagree at least to some extent with the latter accusation. Yeah, the hair was spiky and at times they employed the same sonic attack as acts judged more credible than themselves but they certainly didn’t lazily embrace any Pistols/Ramones/Clash clone sound and instead explored a similar musical vein to acts like the John Foxx version of Ultravox! and The Doctors of Madness, and which was as near to post-glam as punk rock.
Occasionally resembling that irritating Safety Dance song from the 1980s,
this is City of the Damned, a single that received a miserly 1 out of 5 in the first issue of punk mag Trick. Make up your own minds:
Although I’ve always obviously enjoyed City of the Damned, until a few days ago I had never heard their LP Four Minute Warning released by DJM in the summer of 1978.
This proved to be one of the most frustratingly inconsistent albums I’ve ever listened to, pinballing from the good to the bad to the downright laughable on a track by track basis.
This is a pity as the album starts off with a bang with For the Last Days…, a thrilling (near) instrumental with grandiose guitar lines and the guys sounding like Queen’s younger, punkier brothers, the track ending with the singer proclaiming: ‘I’m Rickki Sylvan, these are the last days of Earth.’
Yes, Sylvan was into apocalypse, decadence, dystopian nightmares (via William Burrough’s Wild Boys) and black magick but he wasn’t all laughs.
Also on the plus side there’s No Wave (It’s So Simple) with its meaty bassline (listen to it and then listen to Dr Mabuse by Propaganda and you’ll hear the similarity). I’m very fond of the blissful washes of synthesizer that punctuate the song too.
Aleistair Crowley is obviously Sylvan’s tribute to man denounced by the British press as the ‘wickedest man in the world’. Sylvan was a fan of Crowley and the occult but I’m not sure that Crowley would have been a fan of the song. Here the band somehow decided to incorporate a cod reggae feel and the lyrics were delivered with a vocal so arch it borders on the ridiculous. As it does on several other tracks. A shocker.
Mick Farren dismissed the album in NME: ‘Sad to say, what we have as end product is overblown, confusing pomp rock that hasn’t worked out that melodrama isn’t the same thing as energy.’
Music writer Dave Thompson was a fan though. In his book London’s Burning, he painted one of the few favourable pictures I have yet read of the band: ‘They looked great, dripping leather from every limb and never pictured with anything less than their Sunday-best scowls in place, while their live show had to be heard to be believed – a seething, hissing, icy blast, a wall of synthesized menace that sounded like a million dollars and probably cost that much as well.’
I didn’t get to see them myself and I think their only ever Scottish dates were the ones listed in the ad below in Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh but maybe someone can tell me otherwise.
Does the Rikki and the Last Days Of Earth revival start here?
Probably not I would have to admit.