BY BARRY ST. VITUS
2014 marks the return of legendary punkers, The Vibrators, all fully recharged and ready to knock you in the head with Punk Mania: A Return To The Roots, a nod and tip of the hat to their frosh release, Pure Mania, from 1977. Yes, you can draw a line from that date to the present for the band, albeit numerous personnel changes over the decades. Four constants present are, Ian ‘Knox’ Carnochan, John ‘Eddie’ Edwards, Pete Honkamaki and Darrell Bath, with production fiddling by original bassist Pat Collier, and guest guitar work by UK Subs player, Nicky Garratt, on 5 cuts. (Knox is sitting out the touring, leaving it to the trio.) The end product lives up to its title and can stand side-by-side righteously next to classics like Pure Mania and V2. As Ginger Coyote gushed in Punk Globe, “Punk Mania, with 14 razor sharp tracks that are guaranteed to satisfy your inner old school punk roots…I highly recommend this CD.”
In those last 39 years, while not quite attaining the apotheosis of many fellow Brit-punk pioneers like The Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Fall and The Clash, many feel the band is under-rated and sadly overlooked as punk innovators. But, what’s astounding, is that after all these years, this release will probably be as appreciated by their original fans, as well as someone hearing them for the first time. The songs are tight and well written, grabbing you at the very first hearing, and lead vocalist Knox is in fine fettle for this outing.
The tunes are off to a jarring start with “Retard,” declaring forcefully, “I’m a retard, just like you,” dredging up some memories of “Mongoloid,” ‘Happy as you and me.’ “Blackout” heavily reminded me of “Everybody’s Girl,” one of my favorite songs by San Fran’s rabid rockers, the Dwarves. Following on its heels is pristine pop-punk gem, “Love Like Diamonds.” Since we’re time-tripping back to the late ‘70’s, “Love Like Diamonds” is one of those swooningly great, hooky pop numbers like “Another Girl, Another Planet” by The Only Ones, along with a perceivable Buzzcockian flavor.
Up next is pulse-pounding, chord choogling, “No Sweat,” that chugs right along with ominous overtones. The realm of Iggy and Jayne County is visited, aurally, at least, with “Bleed To Death,’ another twisted tune to head-bob to. The next song catches you off-guard, with a sudden shift into country-punk with the stomper, “The Ohio,’ that could almost be from the Pat Todd and The Rankoutsiders songbook. “Turn The Radio On” is a tad more mainstream and ‘accessible,’ as songs on here go, but a pleasant and catchy one.
Lou Reed is channeled to some degree on “Harness” and the snarling “I Wish I Had A Gun.” Knox’s voice, phrasing and the lyrics could almost be from Lou’s repertoire. “Fix” wraps up the 14 songs here, and packs the punch you come to expect from a Vibrators song. The album wraps up with 3 bonus tracks, “Slow Death,” the delightful “ Get Me A Beer,” and “On My Way To Hell.”
Punk Mania is a high water mark in the band’s career, loaded with their old, bloody passion and punch, coming across as old school, while also being cutting edge and still having something valid to express after, lo, these many years. The “Back To The Roots’ part totally succeeds, and if this was their final bow, it would be a proud note for them to go out on. However, long may they wave, or, vibrate! (Not too surprising that Punk Mania turned up on my Best of 2014 list.)
DOWNLOAD: “Love Like Diamonds, ”Blackout,“ “I Wish I Had A Gun,“ “Harness,” and “Bleed To Death.”
Listen: “LOVE LIKE DIAMONDS”