You might have noticed a recently in the news that sections of Einstein’s grey matter have been brought to the UK for the first time for an exhibition. You might have thought “That’s interesting, it would make a great subject for a song. I wonder if anyone’s ever written one?” You might have thought that, but you probably didn’t. If you did though, the answer is yes, The Dark released a classic single in 1981 on exactly that subject. They were a band that managed to combine punk energy, the ability to write a catchy pop song, and a moody quality that saw them gradually move towards “the genre that dare not speak its name” (goth in case you’re wondering).
The Dark started out in Islington in 1978. Their first gig was as support to fellow Islington band The Gentry, who later changed their name to Spandau Ballet (Who? Probably disappeared without a trace). The Dark acquired impeccable punk credentials when they picked up Noel Martin formerly of GLC hit makers Menace as manager and ex Menace roadie Andy Riff as guitarist.
They released their first single My Friends/John Wayne, in 1979 a bouncy couple of songs. Vocalist Jim left and bassist Phil Langham took over on lead vocals.Their second single was a punk cover of the Hawaii 5 0 theme, apparently their best known record, though in my opinion the best stuff was still to come.
The next single was the aforementioned Einstein’s Brain, a dark (obviously) punk pop song which is the best Damned song not actually written or performed by The Damned (if you see what I mean). The lyrics are from the point of view of Einstein’s brain preserved in a jar, pondering the folly of the human race .
In 1982 they released the urgent sounding On The Wires 7” (“Europe’s on fire!”) which was as near to hardcore punk as they ever got.
Next was The Masque, which sounded positively doom laden and was a move in a g*th direction. It was taken from their only studio album Chemical Warfare. Strange as it may seem this is one of the few 80s punk albums that I have played repeatedly all the way through. Punk is a genre that is arguably best suited to singles and EPs. Chemical Warfare is one of the exceptions, possibly because The Dark experimented a bit more than their peers. There are ventures into new wave pop such as the catchy French Toys, and atmospheric tracks such as The Pleasure Is Pain. The uptempo punk tracks also stand out due to Jim Bryson’s “spikeadelic” guitar. I suspect Damned tracks such as Wait For The Blackout had an influence on the band. It wasn’t a perfect album in the lyrical stakes, featuring too many heavy handed attempts at satire which they should really have left to Jello Biafra, but musically I can’t fault it.
The Dark of course split up soon afterwards. Their final gig, was released as a good live mini album, The Living End. The final line up included Razzle (future Hanoi Rocks) on drums and bass courtesy of Charlie Casey formerly of a certain 70s punk band (go on guess .. they did a song about the Greater London Authority if that helps). Phil Langham went on to produce Action Pact and set up Cherry Red’s spin off label Anagram, signing One Way System, Angelic Upstarts, The Vibrators and Alien Sex Fiend. He sadly died a few years later a later, as have Razzle and Jim Bryson.
The Dark were another shortlived band who left people to wonder what else they could have achieved, but they did record one great album and quit at their peak and as we know sometimes its better that way. Here’s a live version of Disintegrate from the final gig.