Wednesday, September 19, 2007

THE STRANGLERS, The Old Testament: The UA Studio Recordings(1977-1982)
Melody Maker, 1993 (?)

It's easy to why The Stranglers were the most critically
reviled and terminally unhip band to emerge in the punk era:
their extreme misogyny, Jean-Jacques Burnel's pathetic neo-
fascist ideas about "warrior masculinity", Hugh Cornwell's
arty pretentions, arch-muso Dave Greenfield's baroque'n'roll
organ, the fact that portly drummer Jet Black used to drive
an ice-cream van. And yet, and yet, The Stranglers had
something. They didn't sell a quarter million copies of each
of the first three albums for nothing.

What they had, and what I'm still a sucker for, is a
sort of bruised and brooding machismo, a sour and splenetic
misanthropy. A voluptuous, glowering melancholy pervades
songs like "Goodbye Toulouse", "La Folie", the anti-heroin
"Don't Bring Harry" (whose moroseness upset Dave Lee Travis
when The Stranglers released it as an Xmas single). These
warrior wannabes' grievance was that the modern world offered
scant scope for traditional heroic virtues. Hence the
insuperable weariness of "Who Wants The World", the scowling
rancour of "Dead Ringer" and "Bitchin'".

Along with their famous songs (sexist anthems like
"London Lady" still have an irrestible zip, I'm afraid, while
"Golden Brown" is as pretty a smack-hymn as you could wish
for), all manner of engaging oddities are tucked away in the
albums' cranniess. Like "Outside Tokyo" (off the third LP,
Black and White, when the Stranglers' dark vision turned
really morbid), an eerie waltz-time lament that regrets
the invention of Time. The whole of Black and White is a
remarkable feat of failed pretentiousness and pseudo-sinister
weirdness, ranging from the sub-Beefheart shlock of "Do You
Wanna?" to "Death and Night and Blood", Burnel's tribute to
dodgy Japanese proto-fascist writer Yukio Mishima. But when
it comes to art-rock farragos, their UFOs-are-coming concept
album The Meninblack is unbeatable. Like, atrocious, man!

With 83 tracks gathering up every last album track and
B-side they recorded for United Artists (even "Old Codger",
their George Melly collaboration!), this four CD package is
for die-hards only. But their first four albums can be found
dirt-cheap in your local Record and Tape Exchange. An
anomaly in the annals of Brit-rock (I defy you to name a
single group they influenced), The Stranglers had something,
I tell you.


No comments: