How we loved Department S after hearing them in 1981 with the top single “Going Left Right.” We waited for an album, and waited…and waited! But the band were seemingly cursed. Stiff tabled their “Sub-Stance” album, so that I didn’t even knew about it then! The band split up and in 1991 singer Vaughan Tolouse died; seemingly putting an end to things, but it eventually became an orphaned album classic when MauMau released the “Is Vic There?” CD in 1993. And it contained the album in full as well as the band’s single sides. It was everything I had been waiting for in 1981.
I was unaware that the band regrouped with Mike Herbage, Stuart Mizon, and Eddie Roxy in 2007, to ultimately release a new album with a strange blend of new versions of Department S songs and a few new songs/covers as “Mr. Nutley’s Strange Delusionarium” by 2011. But the curse of Department S meant that there was a constant revolving door of personnel such that all original members were gone again by 2015, leaving the band in the hands of guitarist Phil Thompson, who had come aboard in 2014. This lineup produced the album “When All Is Said and All Is Done” by 2016, but it had not pinged my radar. Thompson has also abetted the newly reformed Vapors as well as The Rezillos in recent years, making him a very busy man with tastes that coincide with my own about 100%!
What has pinged my radar was the news of a brand new Department S single in advance of the band’s third album, to be issued early next year. Mr. Thompson in recent years has had bass playing by Mike Lea with drumming from Eddie + The Hot Rods’ Simon Bowley to form the tight trio formation of this band who are not wasting any time with this incendiary blast of speeding New Wave rock with a Punk engine room moving the song along at 90 miles per hour.
The ringing guitar lines and authoritative vocals of Thompson were matched by the soaring vocal harmonies by all three on the chorus that fueled this nitro-burning dragster of a song. Then came the white hot guitar solo on the instro middle eight which built into a fiery crescendo before rejoining the main theme. Ultimately climaxing the breakneck paced song in a single, thrilling guitar chord. But don’t just take my word for it. Click that player!
Yow! That was a furious burst of New Wave energy that took me all the way back to 1979 at least. It’s hard to believe that it’s 43 years later when listening to the likes of that one. I’d only heard the classic lineup of the band before this, but I’m not worried at all about Department S’ ability to live up to their storied past without any of the original personnel onboard now. That song above was clearly as good [if not better] than anything from the classic Department S canon. I can hardly wait to hear the upcoming album of the same name. Anyone who is starved for guitar-based New Wave rock that is ready to blast forth from the starting blocks at full speed and leave all comers in its wake, need to hit that button now!