The Stranglers – In The Shadows (deeper cuts)

10 07 2018

Here’s my latest playlist for you to listen to, hopefully enjoy and share. My previous playlists have been themed – Alternative Jewels (say hello to the modern) and Date Stamp – the 80s (part1)  This is the first playlist dedicated to one band.

That band is one of the most successful UK new wave bands, The Stranglers. I have avoided most of the band’s most well-known songs, though I let a few slip through into the playlist. The list could have been a lot longer, it took remarkable self-restraint to leave songs out, so forgive me if your favourites are not included.

USA EP

The playlist gets underway with Goodbye Toulouse and Hanging Around, from the band’s debut album Rattus Norvegicus. Neither tracks were singles, but they highlight the raw psychedelic sound of the bands first few albums, and were staples of the live set for years to come.

English Towns is the representative from the No More Heroes album. although I have also included 5 Minutes (one of their most powerful singles) and it’s B side, the ballardian Rok It To The Moon, that both feature on the No More Heroes CD re-issue from 2018.

Outside Tokyo is a beautiful, bittersweet spiky waltz from Black And White, the final Stranglers studio album produced by legendary producer Martin Rushent. Curfew is a paranoid, dystopian tale driven by Burnel’s barracuda bass perfectly coupled with Jet Blacks jazz tinged drums, and a classic Burnel / Cornwell jointly sung chorus.

Walk on By is the definitive version of this song for me. I have probably heard it hundreds of times – blaring out of my transistor radio on its release in 1978, on 7″ vinyl, cassette, CD and live, yet I never tire of the song. Its so easy to get lost in the middle section with the wild solos from Dave Greenfield and Hugh Cornwell.

wob

The title track to 1979’s The Raven is another song that never grows old. I could not leave out Baroque Bordello, the song with one of the best intros in the bands large catalogue. Listen to this, and tell me that the band were not influenced by prog rock!

G.m.b.H is a hybrid of the 12″ and 7″ versions of Bear Cage, from the US import album IV, that lots of fans bought on mail-order from ads in the back of NME or Melody Maker (this was pre-internet) to get the previously unreleased, Doors influenced track Vietnamerica. It took me years to track down the rare USA CD issue of IV – and its not for sale, so don’t ask!

“You can keep your Brussels and Amsterdam 
Give me back my summer in Dresden, man” 

Second Coming (which sounded amazing live at the time) and the single Just Like Nothing On Earth feature from The Gospel According To The MenInBlack, which found The Stranglers at their most experimental. Weird and totally wired.

“A woman in Wellington wet her whistle with a wild man,
From way back when.”

Who Wants The World (yes, it did cost 79p) scraped into the lower reaches of the UK singles chart in 1980, but is still a great single, and continues the UFO theme of The Gospel According To The MenInBlack.

wwtw

Ain’t Nothin’ to It is an often overlooked track from La Folie, the album that included the bands biggest hit, Golden Brown.

My playlist ends in 1983, with the 7″ mix of Midnight Summer Dream, and the haunting Never Say Goodbye from the acoustic diversion of the Feline album.

I hope you enjoy this playlist – please follow me on Twitter @mrkinski to find out about future playlists that I put together.





The Stranglers – The Classic Collection

6 03 2018

Take a stroll over to your CD cabinet. Do you have a copy of the first 7 albums from The Stranglers? Nope? Ok now is your time to rectify this. Parlophone have reissued the bands 1977-1982 studio albums under the name The Classic Collection.

The Raven

These reasonable priced reissues (all single discs) have unfortunately not been remastered, which is a bit of a missed opportunity. So if you already own the albums, you will probably stick with what you have, but I would recommend purchasing the new expanded version of Live (X-Cert) which has an additional 8 previously unreleased on CD tracks from the original concerts at The Roundhouse in 1977 and Battersea Park in 1978. I dare you to listen to the version of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy from Battersea on this reissue without picturing in your mind the on-stage antics from the video. You know which one I mean.

If you don’t have the albums, The Classic Collection offers a quick and easy way to collect some of the finest albums of the late 70s / early 80s. Key non-album tracks from the period are included on each album, along with lyrics (that are more readable than previous CD releases), pictures from the era and a history of the band written by David Buckley (the same history appears in the sleeve-notes of each individual album).

The band’s debut album Rattus Norvegicus still sounds dangerous and raw, 40 years after its original release.

From the violence of Sometimes, the harsh beauty of Goodbye Toulouse through to the new wave classic Hanging Around, the band’s debut still delivers on so many levels.

Every time I hear Peaches, I’m transported back to my school-days, and album closer Down In The Sewer is a dripping with acid, punk-Prog powerhouse of a song.

1977 also saw the release of No More Heroes. The title track is one of the band’s enduring classics, but the album contains often overlooked tracks such as Bitching and English Towns.

This re-issue includes two of my favourite early Stranglers tracks, the edgy paranoia of Straighten Out and the precursor to the post-punk sound of the bands 3rd album, the single 5 Minutes.

“Got anything to say? No? Well shut up!”

1978 saw the release of the bands 3rd album, Black And White. To me, this was the best sounding Stranglers album. There is a real consistency that runs through every single song.

Always a great singles band, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy was one of their finest. Like the earlier Peaches, Sleazy is a mutated version of reggae that is simply a classic Stranglers single. Outside Tokyo slows the pace before the snarling Sweden (All Quiet On The Eastern Front).

All 4  band members sound amazing throughout this album – with my favourite Hugh Cornwell guitar sound and the mighty barracuda bass from JJ Burnel. There is a beautiful symmetry on the epic Toiler On The Sea, and this reissue is topped off by the inclusion of yet another classic Stranglers single, their cover of Bacharach & David’s Walk On By. Better than the original, yes I think so.

As I mentioned earlier, the 2018 re-issue of Live X-Cert is the definitive version. The album captures the band in their most raw state.

Highlights include an incendiary 5 Minutes, a venomous Straighten Out and a speed-driven Hanging Around.

The extra tracks include a breakneck speed version of Down In The Sewer, with Bitching, Peaches and my favourite live version of  Nice ‘n’ Sleazy.

My only tattoo is of The Raven logo on my arm, so you can probably tell that this is my favourite Stranglers album. One of my few regrets is that there was no official live album released from this period, as the band switched up to another level live in 1979-1980. Track down footage of the band from this period on YouTube, you will not be disappointed.

The title track is many fans favourite song. To my ears, The Raven features JJ’s best vocal and some wonderfully inventive guitar lines from Hugh, topped with a driving, almost jazz-like percussion track from Jet and inventive, rhythmic synth lines from Dave Greenfield, delivering an absolutely beautiful song that I never tire of hearing. And I’ve heard it a lot.

Although I followed the band from early 1977, I was not allowed to see them live (my parents hated the band!) until 1979, with their gig as special guests of The Who at Wembley Stadium in August 1979 being my first live MIB experience. Hearing songs from their soon to be released album The Raven was a great way to start a long list of memorable Stranglers gigs.

nmh

Anyway, back to The Raven. Ice and Baroque Bordello still send shivers, and the band did not let up with the string of classic singles, delivering two more in the shape of Nuclear Device and Duchess. This 2018 reissue also includes the single and extended mix of one of the bands best later period singles, Bear Cage.

The most experimental Stranglers album, (The Gospel According To) The Meninblack was released in 1981. Apparently featuring a guest appearance from some bloke called Charlie, this album heralded in the darkest period in the band’s history. Just Like Nothing On Earth still sounds like the future, and Two Sunspots really should have been released as a single. Second Coming has grown into my favourite song from the album over the many years since the albums release.

Another great single (which cost me 79p back in the day, fact fans) is included on this 2018 reissue – Who Wants the World, along with a track that was only available at the time on a US import album,  Vietnamerica.

The final album in The Classic Collection reissue series is from later on in 1981, La Folie. Most people will know this album from the huge hit Golden Brown, but the album offered much more than this iconic single. Let Me Introduce You To The Family may not have performed well in the charts, but it was a great single, and sounded amazing live. Tramp, with its powerful chorus, is the one that got away, and should have been the follow-up to Golden Brown.

Ain’t Nothin’ To It and The Man They Love To Hate were standout album tracks, and the fine production from Tony Visconti gives the band a new edge for the emerging decade.

So there you have it – a welcome reissue of the first 7 classic albums from one of the UK’s best bands.

Buy The Classic Collection on Amazon

Rattus Norvegicus (1977)

No More Heroes (1977)

Black And White (1978)

Live X-Cert (1979)

The Raven (1979)

(The Gospel According To) The Meninblack (1981)

La Folie (1981)

 





The Comsat Angels – Fiction

16 11 2015

fiction2015Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels.

The Comsats released their third album Fiction in 1982. The final album in the Polydor trilogy, its an underrated album. Opening with one of the bands most haunting songs, the post-apocalyptic After The Rain.

Zinger has a slight Talking Heads feel, and a strong, fluid bassline. Now I Know has always been one of my favourite tracks from Fiction. The simple arrangement is the songs strength.

“So she took a drink from the radio”

Ju Ju Money (which was considered for the bands debut album) was finally included on Fiction. This take is a much more confident and powerful version of the song originally recorded in 1980.

The tribal drums on the reflective More place the album firmly in it’s time – with the post-punk music of Wah!, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cure, whilst also fitting in with some of the pop sensibilities of established acts such as Peter Gabriel and his fourth album.

Pictures has not dated – ambient keyboard swirls wash under the hypnotic beat that accompanies one of Stephen Fellows most reflective and sombre lyrics.

“Tear out all the pages one by one
Put them in the fire”

The most powerful song on Fiction is Birdman – with the return of the Fellows guitar harmonics! This song must have sounded amazing live in the early 80s – the rhythm section of Bacon and Glaisher was world class. Birdman still sounds amazing, even after all these years.

According to the informative sleevenotes, Don’t Look Now was improvised in the studio. Some wonderful interplay between all the band members on this song, including some guitar parts that surely influenced an Irish stadium rock band a few years later. Cough.

The final track on the main album What Else!? has always reminded me of The Beatles. Its a great 60s infused pop song – and I mean that as a compliment, pop is not a dirty word in my house.

fiction

Remastering / extra tracks

The remastering on the main album is more noticeable on Fiction compared to the first two albums in the reissue series. There is a noticeable increase in volume and power in these tracks compared to the previous CD reissue.

The bonus disc has two great Comsats singles – opening with one of my favourites – (Do The) Empty House with its trademark harmonics. It’s History was released prior to Fiction, and has a killer chorus. How this song wasn’t a massive hit single, I’ll never know.

The rest of the second disc is made up of a mix of b sides and album out-takes plus a couple of live recordings and a Peel session from late 1981.

Fiction (Deluxe 2CD edition)

DISC ONE
1. After The Rain
2. Zinger
3. Now I Know
4. Not A Word
5. Ju Ju Money
6. More
7. Pictures
8. Birdman
9. Don’t Look Now
10. What Else!?

DISC TWO
Bonus tracks
1. (Do The) Empty House
2. Red Planet Revisited
3. It’s History
4. Private Party
5. For Your Information
6. After The Rain (Remix)
John Peel Session
7. Now I Know
8. Ju Ju Money
9. Our Secret
10. Goat Of The West

VINYL – 180 gram heavyweight black vinyl
1. After The Rain
2. Zinger
3. Now I Know
4. Not A Word
5. Ju Ju Money
6. More
7. Pictures
8. Birdman
9. Don’t Look Now
10. What Else!?

Buy the album

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

 

Also available…


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

 

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website





The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More

15 11 2015

sleepnomore2015Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels. The bands second album, Sleep No More, is a much darker album than their debut from the previous year. The guitar is more prominent, and the songs have a real feel of urgency.

It may not have sold as many albums as those by The Cure or Siouxsie & The Banshees from the same era but Sleep No More is easily as rewarding as Pornography and Ju Ju.

The Eye Dance opens up the album at pace, and the urgency remains with the hypnotic layered guitars and insistent drums of the title track.

“It’s late but there’s no tiredness
I can see the city glow
And I’m sure there must be somewhere
We can go”

Be Brave has a wonderful bass line from Kevin Bacon and the lyrics display a nagging paranoia that continues into the next track, the powerful Gone.

Dark Parade is the most intense track on the album, with lyrics that chronicle the loss of life in a late 70s failed US hostage rescue attempt.

Restless passed me by on first release, but is a firm favourite now. It’s mechanical rhythm works really well with the treated guitar and deep bass notes.

After the frenetic Goat Of The West, the album slows down for its final two tracks. Light Years is the albums final dark moment of the main album, containing some of the finest guitar parts from Stephen Fellows on Sleep No More.

sleep

The band saved the best for last with one of my favourite songs of all time, the beautiful and uplifting Our Secret. The track is well sequenced as it gives a hint at the direction of the next Comsats album, Fiction.

“We will never
We will never
We will never
Give it up”

The extra tracks on disc one are important songs in the Comsats canon. Eye Of The Lens seems to foretell the surveillance heavy society we live in today, and is one of the bands finest singles.

Another World has some wonderful atmospheric keyboard work from Andy Peake and more expansive percussion from Mik Glaisher, one of the best drummers to emerge during the post-Punk era. At Sea is a slow-burning piece that explodes into life towards the end of the song, and displays the band at their most experimental.

Remastering / extra tracks

As with Waiting For A Miracle, the noticeable remastering difference is on the bonus material. Tracks such as the EP version of Gone sound much brighter on this version of the CD.

The bonus material includes a handful of demos plus John Peel and Richard Skinner tracks from the era.

Sleep No More (Deluxe 2 CD edition)

DISC ONE
1. The Eye Dance
2. Sleep No More
3. Be Brave
4. Gone
5. Dark Parade
6. Diagram
7. Restless
8. Goat Of The West
9. Light Years
10. Our Secret
Bonus Tracks
11. Eye Of The Lens
12. Another World
13. At Sea

DISC TWO
1. Mass
2. Dark Parade 1 (Demo)
3. Goat Of The West (Demo)
4. Be Brave (Demo)
5. Gone (Alt. EP Version)
John Peel Session
6. Be Brave
7. At Sea
8. Eye Of The Lens
9. Dark Parade
Richard Skinner Show
10. Gone
11. Total War
12. Eye Dance
13. Be Brave

VINYL – 180 gram Heavyweight black vinyl
1. The Eye Dance
2. Sleep No More
3. Be Brave
4. Gone
5. Dark Parade
6. Diagram
7. Restless
8. Goat Of The West
9. Light Years
10. Our Secret

Buy the album

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

Also available…


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website





The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels

29 09 2013

The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat AngelsThe Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels is not a history of the band, but a book focussing on what really matters – the bands music and songs.

The paper-back sized (note, this is not a “coffee-table” sized book) includes a 22 page introduction that has an exclusive q & a with band members Kevin Bacon (the band’s original bassist), singer / guitarist Stephen Fellows, drummer Mik Glaisher, keyboard player Andy Peake and later years bassist Terry Todd. The q & a provides a unique insight into the band’s chemistry, and sheds light for the first time on the band’s future.

Former live guitarist Nick Robinson also gives an insider’s view of the post Jive era of the band, and also shares some memories of the band as a fellow Sheffield musician.

The main bulk of the book is a discussion of the Comsat’s studio albums, discussing the song composition, individual playing style and performances of all band members and the lyrics, interspersed with quotes from Stephen Fellows.

The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels is a fascinating glimpse inside the bands music, which encourages you to listen to the albums again, so in that sense, it does it’s job.

Mark Kermode correctly states in his introduction that the book focusses on the music, not the cliched “life on the road” tales or discussions of band’s haircuts and fashion found in many rock tomes. So if you are looking for a more straight-foward rock biography, this is not it. But if you are already a fan of the band, then The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels does offer new insights, that you will not find elsewhere.

The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels is available in two formats – with a choice of colour pictures on white uncoated paper or black and white on cream uncoated paper – and has 162 pages with 24 photographs, 3 musical scores (Sleep No More, Gone, Shiva Descending), discography, gig list and a foreword by uber-fan and renowned film critic Mark Kermode.

“Written with all the devotion and attention that the Comsats require and deserve.”

Simon Armitage

Buy The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels from The Burning Shed store.

Buy Comsat Angels music

Sleep No More (MP3 album) from Amazon

Time Considered As a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones: the BBC Sessions 1979-1984 – from Amazon

My Minds Eye from Amazon

The Glamour from Amazon

To Before from Amazon





Hugh Cornwell – Totem & Taboo

18 08 2012

The follow-up to 2008’s Hooverdam is a continuation of Cornwell’s recent back-to-basics approach.  Where the production on Hooverdam (by Liam Watson) harked back to the 60s, I felt that the production on the vocals let the songs down.  Hugh recorded his latest album in Chicago late last year, with Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey) behind the desk.  The result is Hugh’s best sounding album to date, and surely up there with Nosferatu and Guilty as one of his finest albums.

A lot of credit must go to Albini for capturing the rich vocals and dirty, raw guitar from one of the class of 77’s finest performers. The Totem & Taboo title track is driven by powerful  drums and a guitar line reminiscent of early Bowie ala Rebel Rebel.

The albums second track, The Face, is about attending a party in honour of the material girl.  The pace picks up with I Want One Of Those, a real new wave thrasher, with lyrics bemoaning the consumerism of society, and the constant upgrade, give me it now culture. Albini captures Hugh’s guitar sound perfectly, with a wonderful solo closing the song.

Stuck in Daily Mail Land has shades of The Jam / Kinks & The Who (check out the nods to Start / Taxman in the bassline and the Keith Moon freakout drums in the break). It’s so refreshing to hear an album where all the musicians are clearly playing live in a room, at the same time, without countless overdubs.

Hugh Cornwell April 2012. Photo Copyright Kevin Nixon.Bad Vibrations is a highlight of Hugh’s live set, and has a wonderful, dirty overdriven bass sound, and Nosferatu‘esque  / Wired discordant guitar / drums interplay after the chorus.  The guitar at the end of the song has a real early Skids feel to it. One of my favourite tracks on the album, I never tire of this song.

God is a Woman features some great interplay between the three musicians, and is the result of bringing well-rehearsed, road-tested songs into the studio environment.

“You know she made the birds and the bees,
You know she made the plants and the trees

I want to see you down on your knees
God is a woman.”

Love Me Slender could be a comment on our image-driven society, as well as obviously being a misappropriation of Presley’s Love Me Tender.

The album ends strongly, with a trio of the albums most powerful songs, all connected by the United States.  Gods Guns and Gays is driven by a wonderful guitar line reminiscent at times of his former band’s Always The Sun, and lyrically discusses the contradictions and obsessions of the Country. Timpanis underpin some sections of the song (possibly a wry nod to another acerbic USA lyric, Dead Loss Angeles and it’s symphony of lonely tympanis line?).

Street Called Carroll is a new wave firecracker and a love song to LA. There is something about this song that reminds me of The Lovin’ Spoonful‘s Summer In The City, and I love the “staying cool, staying cool…” refrain.

“He’ll be drawing in the chalk again,
They are telling me the dead can walk again.”

From the polluted, smog-filled inner-city jungle of LA, the album slips to a more mystical side of the USA with Totem & Taboo‘s closing track, the epic In The Dead of Night.  The sound of assorted wildlife and a real feel of the wide open spaces of the Mojave Desert usher in the track, with it’s walking bass and loping drums.  Cornwell delivers a Riders on the Storm for the 21st Century, with the most effortlessly cool song you will hear this year.

The 60s feel continues as a riff that references Peter Gunn underpins the solo in the middle of the song. I love how Cornwell & Albini resisted the temptation to over-complicate the arrangement.  It remains true to the live version premiered last year, and is a great finish to the album.

Buy the CD on Amazon

Visit the Hugh Cornwell website








%d bloggers like this: