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Dr Feelgood Oil City Confidential Review

Soundtrack. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A worthy addition to an already vast catalogue.

Mike Diver 2010

Dr Feelgood’s acclaim is firmly rooted in the Then, rather than the Now. You-had-to-be-there tales abound, talk of the band’s ferocious energy spun ‘til all are either rapt to the point of spending their last notes on a copy of debut album Down by the Jetty, or utterly despondent at the fact that a group branded ‘pub rock’ could ever mean as much to rock‘n’roll’s evolution as punk, prog or any prefixed sub-genre you’d care to mention.

This disc compiles a decent spread of Dr Feelgood tracks, from across their career – pre- and post-Wilko Johnson’s departure – and serves as the soundtrack to Julien Temple’s latest film of a punk-focused persuasion, following works on the Sex Pistols and Joe Strummer. Admittedly Dr Feelgood were never categorised alongside either the Pistols or The Clash, but their influence on the post-punk scene is every bit as vital: the percussive guitar playing of Johnson, who’d leave the band during the recording of 1977’s Sneakin’ Suspicion, left a huge impression on Gang of Four’s Andy Gill, among others.

Dr Feelgood’s mainstream appeal barely survived the 1970s, their last certifiable hit undoubtedly Milk and Alcohol, which closes proceedings here. Released in 1979, the cocky swagger of their only top ten single is fairly removed from the group’s initial offerings, which while relatively basic of design nevertheless sparked with a quintessentially English electricity that would help carve their name into rock’s family tree. With its squealing harmonica, lolloping bass and gnawing percussion, Roxette is a better artefact to remember the band’s heyday by. The 1974 single – yes, the chart-bothering pop Swedes of the 1980s took their name from it – was backed by (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66, and the Bobby Troup cover makes a welcome appearance here alongside several rousing reinterpretations, as well as a pair of moniker-inspiring Johnny Kidd originals.

Though they remain a touring unit, Dr Feelgood’s original vocalist Lee Brilleaux passed away in 1994, and not one of the band’s line-up of the early 1970s contributes today. As such new recordings have been thin on the ground, 2006’s Repeat Prescription revisiting the group’s peak-period material rather than embarking on any fresh direction. Fair enough: the fans are loyal, and aren’t likely to tire of the likes of the swinging She Does It Right and their well-chosen covers any time soon. As such, this is a worthy addition to an already vast catalogue.

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