Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hanging around

When I noticed that a new album from The Stranglers dropped yesterday (Suite XVI,) my hands got all sweaty and my head hurt. It was probably just the sinus infection I've been fighting off lately, but a proper comeback from the Guildford gents had me pretty excited. That is until I saw that there's still no sign of Hugh Cornwell, who's vocals and lyrics were a big part of what made The Stranglers such an important group in the punk movement. It's nice that they still play and all (drummer Jet Black is 68 years old!) but it's only worth a listen out of curiosity. Aside from the track "Summat Outanowt", there's really not much here. Makes you appreciate Mission of Burma's comeback even more.

Album: The Stranglers - Suite XVI

The best thing to happen as a result of this album dropping, though, is a renewed interest in The Stranglers of old (with Cornwell, of course.) Classics like Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes, a great live album [Live (X-Cert),] two singles collections (The UA Singles '77-'79, The UA Singles '77-'82) and a few others were all were added to Rhapsody this week (praise be!)

They began as The Guildford Stranglers in '74, playing at drummer Jet Black's off-license establishment in Guildford, Surrey. They were a pub rock band and took on a Doors influence when keyboardist Dave Greenfield joined the group in '75. Their run from '77 to '84 was great, and if they'd stopped then, there legacy would've been grander. Cornwell recognized the group was spent and left the group in 1990, but the band continued to limp on, unfortunately, under the same name.

Playlist: The Stranglers '77-'84

By 1977, The Stranglers were already in their late 20s (Jet Black was already 39,) but were able to overcome this hurdle by being associated with the punk movement, thanks in part to Cornwell's vocal snarl. Their live shows were renowned, as the band had been playing out relentlessly since their start so their first album Rattus Norvegicus was recorded to give a snapshot to this experience. "Hanging Around" is the perfect sample of the band... what instrumentally is a pop song becomes a punk classic with Cornwell's snarl, a vocal full of muscle and attitude. "Peaches" became their first hit, and is a good example of bassist JJ Burnel's influential sound. His aggresive sound was obtained using a Fender Precision Bass played with RotoSound roundwound strings, all through a Marshall Amp normally used for guitars. Burnel, along with Lemmy from Motorhead, helped bring that punchy sound to the forefront in underground rock.

Album: The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus

Widely considered their best album, No More Heroes (1977) was actually an album of leftovers from their first album, with a few new ones added to fill out the collection. Largely what makes this album so great is the the title track "No More Heroes", especially the opening lyrics from Hugh Cornwell:

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? /
He got an ice pick /
That made his ears burn /
Whatever happened to dear old Lenny? /
The great Elmyra and Sancho Panza? /
Whatever happened to the heroes? /
All the Shakespearoes? /
They watched their Rome burn
It almost makes sense to re-release these first two albums as one amazing double album, as it documents the band at the top of their game... the culmination of their nearly three solid years of playing live. While they never again reached this creative peak, several later albums were quite good, namely The Raven, La Folie and Aural Sculpture, producing great songs like "Nuclear Device," "Golden Brown," and "Skin Deep." After that, it's all downhill, I'm afraid.

Album: The Stranglers - No More Heroes

And here's testament to their live reputation, as they play "Hanging Around" for a BBC Goes to College segment:

This was filmed at Guildford University for a segment on BBC's "Rock Goes To College" series. Cornwell and the band were not happy that the show was only open to the privelaged students, hence the "we hate playing to elitist audiences" yell to end the song (and the show... they only played two songs.) (Behind the scenes video - YouTube.)

Soundtrack nuggets:
* "Golden Brown" was used in the Guy Ritchie film Snatch
* "Peaches" appears in the film Sexy Beast

Novel Sndtrck: King Dork (features The Stranglers)

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drake leLane said...

The Stranglers - Suite XVI

1. Unbroken
2. The Spectre Of Love
3. She's Slipping Away
4. Summat Outanowt
5. Anything Can Happen
6. See Me Coming
7. Bless You (Save You, Spare You, Damn You)
8. A Soldier's Diary
9. Barbara (Shangri-La)
10. I Hate You
11. Relentless

drake leLane said...

The Stranglers '77-'84

1. Hanging Around - The Stranglers
2. Peaches - The Stranglers
3. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) - The Stranglers
4. Dead Ringer - The Stranglers
5. Dagenham Dave - The Stranglers
6. No More Heroes - The Stranglers
7. Peasant In The Big Shitty (Live) - The Stranglers
8. Walk On By - The Stranglers
9. Do You Wanna?/Death And Night And Blood (Yukio) (Live) - The Stranglers
10. Nice 'N' Sleazy - The Stranglers
11. Toiler On The Sea - The Stranglers
12. Nuclear Device (The Wizard Of Aus) - The Stranglers
13. Duchess - The Stranglers
14. Just Like Nothing On Earth - The Stranglers
15. Let Me Introduce You To The Family - The Stranglers
16. Golden Brown - The Stranglers
17. Skin Deep - The Stranglers