The Vibrators were part of the great English punk explosion of 1977, the year their classic debut Pure Mania was released. Although they did not receive the amount of press in the U.S. that the Sex Pistols and The Clash did, they made a big impression on those of us who heard them. Pure Mania remains a favorite all these years later, and V2 was a solid follow-up as well. After their first breakup in 1980, I kind of lost touch with the band, although they released a number of records after reforming in 1983.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered their latest, titled Pure Punk. This is a very cool collection of cover tunes, which even includes some of their own “oldies.” Among these are newly recorded versions of “Baby, Baby,” and “Whips & Furs,” from Pure Mania, and “Troops of Tomorrow,” and “Automatic Lover,” from V2. Over 30 years later, the trio of Knox (guitar and vocals), Eddie (drums and background vocals), and Pete (bass and backing vocals), prove that they’ve still got it in spades.
I expected nothing less of course, but the real test comes when they tackle other band‘s material. The songs they cover range all over the map, and include a couple of less than obvious choices. One of these is Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” This is the second track on Pure Punk, and came as a big surprise to me. The perky Perry’s cute ditty is given the full on Vibrators treatment, and they give it their all.
The Ramones are clearly a favorite, and three of their songs appear here, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” “Judy Is A Punk,” and “Beat On The Brat.” All three are played faithfully to the originals, and sound great. The guys have also recruited a couple of cool colleagues to join them. The first is Wayne Kramer, of the proto-punk band the MC5. Rather than do an MC5 song though, they throw us a curve ball. The song they went for is another bona-fide punk classic, “Sonic Reducer,” by the Dead Boys.
On an album filled with surprises, The Vibrators also bring in the legendary Leonard Graves Philips of The Dickies. I have always dug Leonard’s voice, and The Dickies were one of the first Los Angeles punk bands to record. They brought a great sense of humor to their music, so I was curious as to what he and The Vibrators would come up with. They decided to collaborate on a pretty obscure tune, “Vibrator” off the first Motorhead album, simply titled Motorhead.
Nobody can accuse The Vibrators of slacking on Pure Punk, the single disc contains a total of 22 songs. Besides those previously mentioned, there are a great deal of “pure punk” tracks here. Just to mention a few other highlights, check out their versions of “(I’m) Stranded” (The Saints), “Pretty Vacant,” (The Sex Pistols), and “Born To Lose” (Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers).
For fans like me, Pure Punk is a nice way to hear The Vibrators again. The songs picked are impeccable, as is the playing. The packaging is pretty cool, too: inside the CD case is a small Vibrators badge, just like the ones we used to proudly wear back in ‘77. This is retro punk at its finest, and I wouldn‘t have it any other way.