Blast From The Past
I would normally consider myself a bit of a rocker, but The Stranglers is one of those groups I’ve grown up with, all thanks to my no-good brother. I got my indie-orientated tastes from him, as he introduced me at an early age to Blur, Oasis and Nirvana (only the former of which I still enjoy listening to). I asked for the 1977-1982 collection for Christmas three years back, and listening to it brought back such delightful, innocent childhood memories, in a world before I was old enough to understand what ‘Peaches’ and ‘Golden Brown’ were about!
The Stranglers was the most commercially successful and long-lasting group to emerge from the punk/new wave scene, producing at least one hit per year between 1977 and 1992. Nowadays, the band is far less prominent, with their 2004 album ‘Norfolk Coast’ only charting at 70th position in this emo/rock dominated music world of ours, but their legacy lives on, and, let’s face it, everyone can hum the bass intro to ‘Peaches’.
As well as knocking out some fantastic and memorable tunes of their own, The Stranglers did a few brilliant covers which they released as singles. A version of The Kinks’ ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ charted at number seven for them (just five places lower than the original) in 1988, and a more unlikely song, Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk On By’ (featured on the 1977-1982 album) hit number 21 in 1979. And I prefer The Stranglers’ versions of both…
The 1977-1982 holds some true classics of music, my favourite being ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, the opening song, a fast paced and lyrically genius tune about the follies of trying to make it in the music industry. ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘No More Heroes’ are two of the more well-known songs, hard-hitting and raw, which was what The Stranglers were and are all about. They don’t take things lightly. Some of their music can even be sinister, best displayed in the frankly disturbing ‘Waltzin’ Black’, a repetitive and menacing fairground ditty with ominous laughter layered on top as the song progresses. Not to be played to children, trust me, it fucks them up!
The Stranglers are probably a love-them-or-hate-them Marmite-esque band. It’s hard to judge when they’re before my time, but I think with a retrospective view, I can gather that they were far from loved by all, as Hugh Cornwell’s voice is very much an acquired taste. Having said that, the vocals on some of the mainstream hits such as ‘Strange Little Girl’ and the classic ‘Golden Brown’ are far smoother and easier on the ear. Whether these songs were sung by co-vocalist Jean-Jacques Burnel or simply a different side of the Cornwell coin, I don’t know. The band go heavy on the keyboard and synth, and ultra heavy on bass, with less focus on the omnipresent guitar in an era overrun with ball-busting power solos and cock rock groups.
Now, the band would be considered “alternative”, and most definitely “cool”, which is a true sign of the times. I would recommend the 1977-1982 collection for curious newcomers to the music, as there are some gems on that record that can’t be found on the 2002 ‘Peaches – The Very Best Of The Stranglers’ album. Even if the band decide to call it a day in the future, they’ve got an extensive quality back catalogue to ensure success for years to come.