At the height of the British punk explosion in 1978, the Only Ones opened their debut album with " The Whole of the Law," a defiantly sentimental love ballad tugged along by a cheesy lounge saxophone and singer/songwriter Peter Perret's tragic-romantic lyrics. Live, the band's leopard skin vests, furs, pink top hats, sharkskin smoking jackets, and shades had more in common with glam than punk. Also, the musicians were accomplished players: powerhouse drummer Mike Kellie did time in the late '60s hard rock/blues outfit Spooky Tooth; Alan Mair was a lissome, inventive bassist; and guitarist/keyboardist John Perry, as fluid a lead  guitarist as has ever strapped on a Stratocaster, coolly ripped off otherworldly solos that shadowboxed with Perrett's suggestive, flowery, mystical, debauched verses.
Perrett's heroin addiction gave the band its cryptic languor, the same junkie blues Nikki Sudden's Jacobites would later tap; vocally, his gloomy croak doesn't land far from Tom Verlaine, either. And as a songwriter he was the shit. The Only Ones classic, "Another Girl, Another Planet," later covered by the Replacements among others, is formally perfect power-pop from the edges where jadedness almost replaces desire; "The Beast," an equally accomplished slow creeper, turns Perrett's habit into a monster on the prowl. The stance isn't novel, but that only helps explain why this exquisite debut album has a timeless/trendless quality that fans in the postpostpunk '90s and '00s still turn to for dark solace.


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