The Damage Manual: self-titled

="Description" CONTENT="The Damage Manual, The Damage Manual (Invisible), review by Wilson Neate

The Damage Manual

The Damage Manual

US Release Date: 2000-09-05

If you look up "supergroup" in your imaginary dictionary of rock terms, you'll probably arrive at the same definition as I did: "An ensemble of has-beens given to narcissistic -- often stadium friendly -- displays of inconsequential and anachronistic 'musicianship,' generally performed with the aid of walking frames, Rogaine and Viagra."

Bearing that in mind, can we expect anything seriously worthwhile and relevant from the Damage Manual, a band comprising PiL alumni Jah Wobble and Martin Atkins, Killing Joke's Geordie Walker and ex-Ministry/Revolting Cocks frontman Chris Connelly?

Of course we can. The Damage Manual are not your common or garden geezers. When Guardian journalist Dave Simpson recently observed that Wobble et al. were "men who look like they've spent several years in institutions," he had in mind not old people's homes but, rather, correctional or psychiatric facilities. Apparently, this album was to have been called Music To Be Murdered By and, in keeping with the spirit of that discarded title, from start to finish it's a tour de force of total sonic disturbance that makes for brilliantly uneasy listening.

And about time too. The Damage Manual are making music dangerous again and showing up a current crop of Brit bands -- who are getting young enough to be their offspring -- as (mostly) a bunch of bed-wetters and bores.

While they boast some seriously heavyweight musical pedigrees, the Damage Manual strike a compelling balance between their own tried and tested signatures (Wobble's earth-moving bass, Atkins' punishing drums, Geordie's grinding guitar) and a new synthesis of all the above, supplemented, of course, with Connelly's vocals that alternate between the maniacally urgent and the quietly melodic and threatening. On top of that, you can factor in a Pandora's box of scratches, samples and synths as well as the mixing skills of Bill Laswell and the Orb.

From the crashing menace of the opening track ("King Mob") onward, this album is a beautiful monster. For the most part, it hinges on a careful building and working through of textures and rhythms, albeit never in a pedestrian or predictable fashion. The insistent bass and relentless beat of "Denial" and the sheer drive of "Broadcasting," with its frenzied rush of drums and percussion -- that eventually let the bass and guitar in on the act -- are textbook exercises in a stand-off between craft and chaos. On the other hand, there are more rock-based, explosive tracks like "The Peepshow Ghosts" and the standout "Sunset Gun," that center on Geordie's abrasive, weaving guitar patterns and Atkins' Richter-scale drumming.

Britain's first post-punk, post-industrial, post-millennial supergroup restores some much needed credibility to a category that, since Cream, has been a polite way of saying "a load of boring old bollocks." This eponymous album shows that musicianship is not necessarily a dirty word, especially when it's shot through with such attitude and energy.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.