Disco Zombies - "Drums Over London" (Drums Over London)
Disco Zombies’ bio reads like an archetypal U.K. punk almost-ran narrative. Singer Dave Henderson designed costumes for Derek Jarman’s classic punk-apocalypse film Jubilee and released the first Adicts single on his label, Dining Out. The group’s three- or four-year lifespan (1977-1980) incorporated both a characteristic fast-loud phase and a slightly darker, “arty” drum machine period. The mind reels at how many similar bands must have existed, whose sole single or demo or one great song was collected on one of the myriad volumes of Killed By Death or Bloodstains, whose records summon mind-boggling prices within the collector-scum community and, nowadays, circulate easily via YouTube, generating breathless hype from Tumblring teens. Often enough, that one song will suffice; why, this writer wonders, can the rest of The Gymslips’ oeuvre simply not equal “Miss Nunsweeta”? As with garage and reggae and any number of other genres easily and endlessly anthologized, it’s marvelously simple to write one truly awesome punk song.
So it’s a surprise to throw on a full length of one of these forgotten bands and to enjoy every song, beginning to end, and not to feel bogged down in filler or, as is also often the case, that the listener is grooving as much on their zeitgeistiness — look, vibe, teenage absurdity — as on the quality of the songs.
Drums Over London achieves just that. The songs have a sprightly Buzzcocks-Vibrators pop quality, with great melodic bass runs and the occasional well-placed guitar solo. Like those bands, they wrote primarily about girls (“Here Come the Buts” has especially smart romantic-bummer jam lyrics) with the occasional ill-advised turn into politics. The group’s hit, “Drums Over London,” intended as a sarcastic take on white nationalists, confused people to the point that John Peel received angry phone calls from Rock Against Racism demanding that he take the single off the air and, according to one zinester, skins chanted it without irony. The moodier “Greenland” remedies that misstep, envisioning an escape to the frozen north upon the onset of the impending left-right civil war, “when the tanks go rolling over London” — very Jubilee, indeed.
Acute has done a beautiful job with this reissue, aided in no small part by the super-cool original Op Art sleeve for the Drums Over London designed by Henderson, who was studying screen printing at the time of the record’s release. Remastered to sound loud and bright, with a digital download to accompany the vinyl release that includes additional demos and covers of Faust and Eno, it reflects attentiveness, good research and genuine excitement for this music without veering into excess.