❉ A concept album made by a punk band, loaded with strong tunes and plenty of humour, this is no ordinary release.
“A band containing the talent and experience, not to mention the intelligence and wit, of Professor And The Madmen, should be capable of producing a good concept album. And boy, they have.”
November 2020 sees the release of the fourth album from Professor And The Madmen, the punk supergroup comprised of Alfie Agnew (Adolescents, D.I.), Sean Elliott (D.I., Mind Over Four), and The Damned legends Rat Scabies and Paul Gray. The band’s output thus far has been prolific. Four studio albums in as many years is some going, especially given the fact members have been busy with a range of other projects. Prior to its release Rat found time to talk to We Are Cult about the record itself, which you can catch up with HERE.
It is a world away from their previous long players. Séance was recorded either side of the Atlantic. Vocals, effects and guitars in the United States, rhythm section in the United Kingdom. The result is unconventional. A concept album. A concept album made by a punk band. Séance comes complete with the world’s first punk rock board game. Yep, you read that correctly! The vinyl has the game on its gatefold sleeve, the compact disc version has the game on an insert. Up to five players can take part, go to iconic venues, get mugged on the underground en route, steal money and get up to all manner of other gig-night related activities. If only in 2020, eh?
As you can see, this is no ordinary release. The ‘concept’ is a séance held by a group of friends, who wish to say a final goodbye to friends already passed. In the supernatural fog they visit purgatory and hell and get a check on their own current ‘reality’. There is a twist at the album’s finale.
But is it any good?
Totally. A breath of much-needed air, loaded with strong tunes and plenty of humour, an understandable (not always the case with concept albums) plot line and of course, tight as you like musicianship. It has a wide range of styles within its repertoire. Alfie Agnew has said: “It’s less punk-influenced than our previous three albums. The 1960s and ‘70s musical influences are more pronounced. We’re big fans of The Kinks, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Brian Wilson, Led Zeppelin and of course, The Damned.”
Professor And The Madmen’s previous trio of albums are not just punk rock records. There are touches of progressive rock (Haunted House and End Of The World from Good Evening, Sir!), psychedelia (Space Walrus from Disintegrate Me) and bright sixties mod rock (Faces, from Elixir, Vol 2).
So, the many musical styles of Séance should come as no surprise. Furthermore, The Damned’s more complex moments, such as Curtain Call, heavily featured both Rat and Paul. The new album contains a heavy dose of English sixties pop. And West Coast sixties pop. There are very definite influences of The Monkees and The Kinks. The material is written by Alfie and Sean, and both have proved over time what gifted, inventive and productive song writers they are. “I’m always impressed by the high quality of tunes they (Alfie and Sean) bring me”, says Rat Scabies.
Moving through Séance, it is clear from the opening notes and words it is a different kind of animal. The spacey, atmospheric sonics of All the Lonely Souls set the scene, assisted by Sean Elliot’s otherworldly vocals. He continues the vocal duties on the title track, which jumps as the opener drifts away. It builds up the tension and then rips in nicely, introducing the séance. It kicks-starts the album good and proper. A muscular track, no means an out and out punk tune. It is bright, full-on and contains narrative. After contacting the dead, the ‘This is what they said’ line is effective. Simple but phrased in an anticipatory way – you want to hear what happens next.
Alfie Agnew’s vocals on So Long add to its a blustery feel, and Real Me has a definite sixties sound swagger. It lies somewhere between The Monkees and The Small Faces. Possibly even with a touch of Liam Gallagher’s arrogance.
Time Machine, an appropriate title for a tune in this project, is pure pop bounce combined with a Beach Boys-esque quality. The sing-along ‘da-da-da’ hook grabs the listener instantly.
A Child’s Eyes is another free-flowing number, with vocals by Alfie. Like much of the album Paul Gray’s bass line is highly melodic, leading the track along. A real highpoint is the riffy Two Tickets For The After Life. Bluesy rock riffage, terrific vocal harmonies, dynamics and humour. What more do you want? It’s all waiting for you – ‘We got bills! We got pills! We got million-dollar bills!’
It is followed by the quirky step of The Council of Purgatory. An acoustic guitar with a subtle, restrained vocal and a medium tempo. It has a St Tropez-Floyd touch and is crucial to the plot, too.
Any self-respecting concept album would not be complete without some sort of musical reprise. It is provided here with All The Lonely Souls Reprise. To be fair, PATM have used reprised musical pieces before, such as Special/Special (Reprise) from Elixir Vol 2: Election. A prog rock instrumental, All The Lonely Souls Reprise has a definite ‘70s Floyd influence. It also gives the listener a few moments to catch breath and absorb what has taken place thus far. Just in time for the conclusion courtesy of Greeting From The Other Side and New World. Both pieces feature vocal from Sean. Fantastic stuff. No spoilers – have a listen for yourself.
A band containing the talent and experience, not to mention the intelligence and wit, of Professor And The Madmen, should be capable of producing a good concept album. And boy, they have.
The joy of Séance is not just in its swoops, songs, dynamics, variety of styles, performance and storyline. It is in the fact that the concept album is delivered in a succinct manner. It gets to the point and doesn’t hang around. Many a concept album in the past has been guilty of too much self-indulgence, waffle and unnecessary length. Séance not only has avoided all of that but is vibrant, fun and unique. The punk background of Professor And The Madmen has been put to good use.
❉ Professor And The Madman: ‘Séance’ is released on November 13, 2020, and will be available on yellow vinyl, CD, and digital download via Fullertone Records. Pre-order at www.professorandthemadman.
❉ Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His first novella, ‘Donny Jackal’, a kitchen-sink coming of age drama set in English punk rock suburbia in 1978, is out now both in paperback and as an E-book. His fiction has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, Brit Grit Alley and Unlawful Acts. Paul also writes articles on music, in particular on the punk and new wave movement, and is a regular contributor for We Are Cult, Punkglobe, Razur Cuts and Something Else magazines. See https://paulmatts101.wordpress.com/ for more details, and to subscribe for updates.