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Album Review

Old punks and U.K. Subs-heads are gazing towards the next two Subs LPs, Quintessentials and Riot, which reunite the only 20-year fixture in the group, vocalist Charlie Harper, with original, 1977-1983 (first-four LPs) guitarist Nicky Garratt (and third and fourth LPs) bassist Alvin Gibbs, for only the second time in 14 years. Garratt was the true talent in the original group, both for the memorable riffs he composed, and his simple yet pile-driving solos. Anyone in need of a history lesson, proceed directly to the mouth-opening, multidimensional 1982 LP Endangered Species. However, one forgets the "ageless" Harper factor. True, while going through more guitarists, bassists, and drummers than Julia Roberts changed outfits in The Pelican Brief, the fifty-something singer has never equaled that pure greatness that made the early Subs prime leaders of U.K. punk's immediate, memorable second wave (along with the Ruts, Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, Undertones, and Newtown Neurotics). But neither has his post-Garratt Subs released a truly horrible LP. While the loud, raw sound of Occupied is as predictable as a losing season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Harper continues as ever to insist on the storming riffs and crunching, flowing sound that made the genre such an exciting pleasure in the first place. On this, their 15th proper LP (each album title has started with the next letter in the alphabet), hard and nasty smackers such as "Darkness" and "DF188" easily better the whole sorry crop of crap-new pretender-American-pop-punk-yobbos who sound like so much spark-less, faceless, facile MTV-fodder. Think of it this way: old hat has rarely sounded this strong, and, yes, ageless, as this unsinkable, modern Dorian Gray frontman.

Occupied, UK Subs
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