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Chelsea

Chelsea

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Album Review

It was one of the most howling injustices of the entire punk era. Chelsea emerged in 1976, among the very earliest of bands to arise in response to the rapidly warming sounds of the street. Yet they were among the last bands of all to release an album, a full three years into their career and, it must be said, a good two years after they really ought to have done it. In 1977, after all, Chelsea was at the very forefront of the battle, and commencing a sequence of churning singles whose intentions are still garishly neon-lit declarations of war — "Right to Work"; its B-side, "The Loner"; "High Rise Living"; and "Urban Kids" (included here among four bonus demos) evoke the soul of 1977 as avidly as any better-fated offering from the Pistols, Clash, or Adverts. But the obstacles piled up, the record labels turned them down... and, by the time Chelsea finally hit the streets, though the band was still blazing, punk itself was scarcely smoldering. The album foundered accordingly, and it was only later — much later — that ears twisted back toward Chelsea and admitted that its timing was its only fault. In every other respect, it is brilliant, a savage litany that states its case from the opening chord and doesn't let up for a second. "I'm on Fire," "Decide," "Twelve Men," and a genuinely affecting rendition of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" rate among the most obvious highlights, and if Gene October's tendency toward polemic does seem a little over-the-top today, then that only reinforces the righteous rage that was burning behind the band. While the best of Chelsea's punk peers were absorbed into the system, and grew fat and complacent on chart success and critical plaudits, Chelsea themselves remained defiant outsiders, and didn't care who knew it.

Chelsea, Chelsea
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