Chelsea -- Evacuate
Step Forward, 1982
Captain Oi! 2008
Although Chelsea is perhaps better known as the band whose original lineup would become Generation X, the various subsequent incarnations of the group assembled by Gene October produced some really solid music in their own Billy Idol-less right. Last year's Captain Oi! reissue, the band's long out-of-print third album, 1982's Evacuate, is a poignant reminder of that fact. From the apocalyptic title track, through the trance-like "Tribal Song," to the uncharacteristically upbeat "Stand Out" capping off the disk, Evacuate is one of those records that really deserves more attention from punks looking to preserve the gems of genre's first wave. Darkly political in its thematic scope and sonically intense, Evacuate is also one of the more consistently melodic records to emerge out of the Spirit of '77 scene.
Track 1. "Evacuate." While "Right to Work" is undoubtably the band's best-known recording, "Evacuate," in my mind, is a much better song. Backed by deceptively poppy oh-oh-oh-oh-ohs, Gene October depicts a dire scene in which the imminent arrival of some unspecified disaster throws London into chaos. Panicked citizens furiously search for ways to escape the city or, at the very least, find shelter while government officials barricade the entrances to their underground safe zones, using a periscope to watch the pandemonium from "a comfortable settee." The guitar work on the recording is a fantastic aural analogue to the lyrical content, alternating between riffs evoking the wailing of police sirens and moments of conspicuous, almost tense silence and cultivates a sense of frantic expectation. By the song's conclusion, the frenetic riff blends with the backing vocals to evoke a perfect chaos, as if we're overhearing the trampling of bodies from the safety of the aforementioned underground chamber.
Track 3. "Cover Up." The album's best sing-along, it's almost impossible to realize just how vitriolic a diatribe "Cover Up" actually is upon the first listen or two.
Track 4. "Tribal Song." An intense, meditative slab of post-punk gloom creating about as bright a view of the world as anything by Amebix.
Track 6. "Forty People." While not among the album's strongest tracks, "Forty People" stands out as the song most likely to entertain puerile mondegreen fanatics. Seriously, the refrain of "forty people" sounds like anything but "forty people." Farty people, party people, farting people, fried egg people, maybe, but not forty people.
Track 9. "Last Drink" The most melodic guitar riff on the album dominates what is, in the end, a really sweet-sounding song about getting oneself positively shitfaced.
Track 18. "Stand Out." Imagine a beat-up boombox playing from within the rubble of a warehouse blown apart by whatever nuclear or asteroidal menace destroyed London in "Evacuate." "Stand Out" sounds like punk rock's defiant refusal to die in the wake of the new wave explosion.
Sobriquet Grade: 91 (A-).