Theatrical post-punks with an unfortunately short lifespan, UK Decay provided a crucial bridge between such art-gloom bands as Bauhaus, PiL, Theatre of Hate and Killing Joke and the anarchy-punk camp led by Crass, Rudimentary Peni and Flux of Pink Indians. Quite unlike the politico/nasty-thrash image suggested by their name, UK Decay had a classical bent, both in frontman Abbo’s theatrical intonations (think Shakespearian) and the complex, almost stately modalities of the music.
The Black EP captures the band in an early, somewhat immature state. The four tracks are far more traditional (not to mention humorous) punk constructions than their later, highly serious work. On For Madmen Only, the band’s sole album, Steve Spon’s five-string guitar produces a lucid, biting wash of sound — akin to John McKay’s work on the first two Banshees albums — mated to (the now-deceased) Steve Harle’s tribal drum patterns. (Contrary to reports, bassist Martyn “Segovia” Smith did not die during the making of the album and was, as of the late ’90s at least, “alive and well and living in Luton.”) No matter how ambitious or full of portent the group gets, the record remains invigorating; driving and angular, and an inestimable influence on the ’82 positive punk movement (Sex Gang Children, Southern Death Cult, etc.).
Rising from the Dread is a creative apex. The side-long “Werewolf” boasts ingenious hair-raising sonic effects, while the other three cuts (especially “Testament”) are nearly as good. UK Decay went out in style with an explosive series of final concerts in December of 1982.
Three-fourths of the group appeared on The Whip compilation as Slave Drive, then soldiered on under the name Furyo the following year (with former Gene Loves Jezebel guitarist Albie De Luca in Spon’s place), attempting even weightier and more baroque compositions.
Spon formed the sub-par In Excelsis, joined by two ex-members of Ritual. Though clearly reminiscent of both parent groups, In Excelsis possessed neither the cool intensity and compositional mastery of the former nor the raw potential of the latter. A few clever touches (like the bell motif in Ladder of Lust‘s “Bonanza”) aside, the band proved a dead end.