The Stranglers have some outstanding studio albums. When I was about 14 years of age their back catalogue was a pocket money friendly “Nice Price” range. I bought most of their back catalogue – an album a week.
The bands debut album does feature arguably 3 of their best ever tracks; (Get A) Grip (On Yourself), Peaches and the frankly fantastic Hanging Around. Released in 1977 the band fitted the punk movement well although I’ve never really seen The Stranglers as a punk band.
Quickly following the bands debut album (same year) is their 2nd album “No More Heroes”. I’ve never really got on with “No More Heroes” as an album – it’s just not that good. That said, the track “No More Heroes” is undeniably up their with their best ever singles. A killer tune.
1978’s “Black & White” has more of an album as a whole feel. A brooding piece of work and really quite heavy with it. The stand out track from their 3rd album is “Nice N Sleazy” although the whole album is a solid body of music.
For me, The Stranglers hit their perfect gear with their 4th studio album – “The Raven”. The cover for a start looks great, but more importantly the music is now, whilst still sounding like The Stranglers, pushing things forward. Loads of musical ideas are offered. The sound is accessible but unique.
Longships intros the album. A short swirling yet plodding teaser. It’s really setting the pace for…
The Raven. I adore the sound of this track. Sweeping intro, electric bombs thrown out of an experimental keyboard – it builds beautifully. After that perfect intro Hugh Cornwall delivers a new style of vocal delivery. Hush, soft – yet somehow still slightly menacing. He’s not singing, he’s not talking, it’s a superb vocal delivery. The track washes and judders yet still sweeps all the way through. Fan-friggin’ tastic.
Then the real judder of Dead Loss Angeles. A play on words and again a very solid sound. Washing away in the background is more keyboard bliss. Deadpan. Robust.
Ice rattles in. It builds, builds, twines then… a speaker pounding rhythm. The hush vocal style returns. Lyrics flow like poetry. In the background the music jams in a very angular fashion. “Hagakure with perfume…”
Baroque Bordello yet again throws a ridiculosly strong intro our way. The bass, whilst not overdoing it at all manages to kick some major ass despite its understated overall sound. The key rises and the track goes with it throwing shards of more angular joy for the ears. By the time the track phases out it almost sounds like a dark hymn.
Back to earlier sounding Stranglers for Nuclear Device. It’s like The Stranglers have pulled a track from their first 3 albums put squeezed it through The Raven mangle. Yet again the track raises a key before rolling at us with a dream steamroller drive.
Flip The Raven over. Side 2 kicks of with the goosebumb inducing Shah Shah A Go Go. The sound is almost middle-eastern as a muezzin calls. Then – lush – lush keys and that Stranglers plod that only they can do so well. More deadpan lyrical delivery painting a vivid image. Ranging keyboad sounds swirl like bees – the pitch ups and ups again – then again – before splintering off and time for more goosebumps. An outstanding piece of under rated music.. Just listen to it.
Don’t Bring Harry dreams. The soundtrack to a blissful, much needed sleep suggests itself. A timeless piece (although Tottenham fans might like to interpret it as an ode to the England job).
Duchess bounds in like the two and a half minute pop joy it is. Confident, catchy and a clear chart single if ever their was one, “and the Rodneys are queuing up God forbid”…
Men In Black returns to dreams – but this time, the vibe is bleak stark nightmares. Robotic, sinister, dark oozing throbs.
The Raven outros with Genetix and again earlier Stranglers material is hinted at with a fresh twist / sound. Plodding along for a considerable while before checking itself and almost getting all gospel on us as it blurs and bobbles away.
Easily the bands best ever album although seldom credited as so. Spend 40 minutes with The Raven if you can – it’s a great album by a great, great band.