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)

 





Scarred For Life volume one: The 1970s By Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence

25 03 2017

OK, lets start with a confession. The 70s is my favourite decade. Its a decade that I lived through as a young ‘un (I was 10 in 1970) and saw me through to my first years as a young adult. It was the decade that provided some of the music that has seeped into my very soul, especially the mid 70s classic rock and the punk / post punk music from 77-79 that shook the establishment. So Scarred For Life volume one: The 1970s was always going to scream out READ ME, READ ME NOW. Oh and prepare to open your wallet – as you will probably find yourselves heading over to Amazon to buy lots of the DVDs and blurays of programmes you loved when you were young, or to eBay to pick up comics (old copies of Look-in) or other 70s memorabilia.

Scarred for Life Volume one: The 1970s

Scarred For Life volume one: The 1970s is a printed publication (740 black and white pages printed, with a free colour eBook version) that covers the decades weird and wonderful television (including favourites of mine such as The Tomorrow People, Sky, Survivors and A Ghost Story For Christmas), as well as a look at the changing face of UK TV culture. And that’s not all – the publication looks at board games – such as Top Trumps and Escape From Colditz, plus films and comics (including the mighty Action from 1976) as well as 70s fads and food (I had forgotten all about Horror Bags Fangs Crisps!). Oh and the array of 70s ice-lollies – no wonder I’ve spent so much money at the dentists over the years.

Scarred For Life volume one: The 1970s opens with an excellent scene-setting introduction by horror writer / historian Johnny Mains. Scarred by Television is the books first section. If you lived through the 70s, the memories are instantly sparked by the description of TV in that decade – no remote controls, tiny screens and few channels, compared to todays HD and hundreds of channels beamed into our homes through satellite / cable and on demand net based programming. On demand was not an option in the 1970s – in fact recording of programmes to watch later didn’t feature in most households until the 1980s. So TV watching was a much more communal event – everyone watched the programmes at the same time and discussed last nights viewing at school or work the next day. And if you missed the programme, or if it clashed with something else your family was watching on the homes ONE TV, that was it – no pausing, rewinding or catch-up TV. You simply missed it.

Programmes discussed in depth in the first few chapters include The Owl ServiceThe Ghosts of Motley Hall and one of my favourites, The Tomorrow People (which has a Bowie reference, fact fiends). Name that tune! The Blue And The Green Tomorrow People story has stuck with me all these years.

SkyOne of the most enjoyable parts of Scarred for Life is the coverage of the HTV series Sky. I remember watching and enjoying early episodes of this programme, but for some long forgotten reason, I never got to watch the whole of the seven part series. But I never forgot those terrifying black eyes…..

There is also a lengthy and informative section on Play For Today – including the haunting Blue Remembered Hills, which can be found on the Essential Dennis Potter boxset.

The sci-fi section of Scarred for Life includes the BBC post-plague drama Survivors. Much grittier than the (sadly cut-short after two series) more recent version starring Max Beesley, the original series lasted three seasons and went straight into my Amazon basket after reading about it in this book.

My favourite TV related section of Scarred for Life is the Gothic TV section – especially  the section on A Ghost Story For Christmas. I occasionally saw episodes during the 70s but bought the BFI DVD collection a couple of years ago due to the 2010 remake of the M. R. James story Whistle and I’ll Come to You, and dipping into this collection has become a Christmas tradition. The Scarred for Life piece goes into great detail, even mentioning the 1860s M. R. James origin of the Christmas Ghost stories that led to this wonderful BBC festive regular. I know its not Christmas as I write this review, but I think I’ll dip into the collection again this weekend. Charles Dickens is not just for Christmas, after all.

The How we used to live section discusses the way that some mainstream 70s TV dealt with race (the impact of ‘light entertainment’ shows such as The Black and White Minstrel Show and Love Thy Neighbour) and particularly the awful, lazy stereotyping in Mind Your Language. The section also discusses the “something for the Dads” casual sexism that was prevalent in Seaside Special / Top of the Pops and various sitcoms such as Doctor In The House and On The Buses. To their credit, the Scarred for Life writers don’t choose the easy “weren’t the 70s wacky” route in their discussions about these issues.

Scarred for Life takes an interesting approach to its lengthy Doctor Who section. Instead of focusing on the show and the stories, they take a fresh approach discussing what it was like being a fan of the show – writing about the Doctor Who Exhibitions and the eras Doctor Who annuals and magazines.

If, like me, you are of a certain age – the phrase “clunk click every trip” will mean you watched the multitude of public information films that ran through the decade, and they are discussed in loving detail in Scarred for Life. To this day, I’m still petrified of dumped fridges and ponds.

charleysays

The section covers with Charley Says, The Green Cross Code and the downright terrifying Joe & Petunia (the coastguard animation still haunts me). Coo-ee!

I spent many happy hours playing Escape From Colditz as a kid in the early 70s. The board game was inspired by the popular TV series, starring Robert Wagner and David McCallum, that ran for two series between 1972 and 1974. It made a change from the endless magic sets and compendium of games that I received each Christmas. So I really enjoyed the children’s games section in this publication, that also covers Top Trumps, a card based game (I recall having lots of military and vehicle based sets – mainly tanks, jets and motorbikes).

The savage cinema section is well researched. Covering films such as Soldier Blue, Straw Dogs, Dirty Harry and the Death Wish series, the writers put these films in the context of the post-Vietnam, permissive society fighting Mary Whitehouse era. Classic films such as Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver and Deliverance are also covered.

The writers also delve briefly into the “When Animals Attack” late 70s film genre, mentioning Grizzly, but sadly no mention of one of my  (corny) favourites from the era – Day of the Animals. I saw Day of the Animals as a double-bill (what a great concept, bring it back!) at the cinema in 1977 with a great film called The Car, with James Brolin being pursued through the desert by a seemingly driverless Lincoln Continental (The Car is mentioned further on in Scarred for Life).

Another well-written section of the book are chapters given over to covering some of the satanic / possession films of the 70s. Covering less obvious choices, such as Dennis Potters Brimstone and Treacle (not to be confused with the later film version starring Sting) as well as the sort of films you would expect, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen and The Exorcist, the writing is often focused on the public’s perception of the films rather than plot synopses, which is a fresh take on these much-discussed classic horror films.

I also found the folk-horror section interesting – as its a sub-genre I know little about, so feel inclined to explore further.

The Pop Movie Turns Dark covers the trio of pop films That’ll Be The Day, Stardust and Slade in Flame. I’ve never seen the Slade film but love the two David Essex films. I didn’t realise that That’ll Be The Day is based on Harry Nilsson’s song 1941, so thanks for that pop-quiz nugget, Scarred for Life.

thatll-be-the-day

The sections on 70s books and comics is the section I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint. I bought several pre-ban issues of Action – I wish I’d kept them, as it was a ground-breaking comic that is covered in depth in this publication. And I had forgotten all about the Pan Book of Horror Stories – that turned me onto the work of Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker among others. I was also a big fan of the early James Herbert books – The Rats is discussed in Scarred for Life, but my favourite was The Fog. I’ve still got my original copy and it still scares me to death. Its a shame there is not more coverage of James Herbert – he may not be regarded as being a writer in the same class as Stephen King in horror writing circles, but his books were extremely popular in the 70s and 80s for the very good reason that they were terrifying.

Scarred by… food. Horror themed ice-lollies (Lyons Maid Red Devils & Haunted House), Smiths Horror Bags crisps (I can taste them now!) and Golden Wonder Kung Fueys (bacon and mushroom corn balls mnnnn) are all on the menu in Scarred for Life. Oh how I miss the 70s.

There is an interesting chapter on UFO imagery used in 70s music, including Boston, ELO, The Stranglers and a fair bit about David Bowie‘s apparent fascination with aliens. The sections ends with the top 10 UFO songs of the 70s. I won’t give it away – buy Scarred for Life and see for yourself.

Scarred for Life is a great read for anyone who lived through the decade, or for anyone in love with the music, TV and films that poured out of this amazing period. The TV series Life on Mars gave a great flavour of the 70s, so if you loved that show, Scarred for Life will paint an even fuller picture of the decade. I am really looking forward to the next volume, that will cover the 80s. I can’t wait to read about the nuclear paranoia of that decade, especially the mighty Threads.

You can buy Scarred for Life Volume one – the 70s now as a 740 page perfect-bound paperback (the printed version comes with details of how to obtain the colour e-book version as part of your purchase).





Hugh Cornwell – The Fall and Rise Of Hugh Cornwell

11 10 2015

The Fall and Rise Of Hugh Cornwell is a compilation of material from Hugh’s first six solo albums. If all you know of Hugh’s work is from his time as a member of The Stranglers, The Fall and Rise… will serve as a great introduction.

The Fall and Rise of Hugh Cornwell

Opening with Hi Fi‘s powerful Leave Me Alone, it’s clear that the re-mastering by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios has really added something to the audio quality. This is more noticeable on the older material, such as Hot Cat on A Tin Roof from 1993’s Wired, where the track sounds brighter, with better separation.

Break of Dawn from Wolf is one of the albums highlights, a forgotten gem from the late 80s.

Under Her Spell has always been one of my favourite songs from the Tony Visconti produced Beyond Elysian Fields from 2004. The Who like final section on this song gets me everytime. You could say I’m under the songs spell!

First Bus To Babylon, with its mix of layered percussion and wonderful slide guitar, is a classic Hugh solo track.

“When we’ve sung the final song, get the first bus to Babylon”

Two of the more recent tracks, Hooverdam‘s Please Dont Put Me On A Slow Boat To Trowbridge and Beat Of My Heart have been cranked up a little in this remaster. Lay Back On Me Pal sounds wonderful just past the half way point on this compilation. The lovely psychedelic layers, strings and warm Laurie Latham production make this almost Beatles-like piece a definite highlight of the album.

One Burning Desire (originally from Guilty) is one of Hugh’s finest pop songs (and one of his great vocal performances). Another Laurie Latham production, One Burning Desire is almost a homage to the 60s with Hugh’s Byrds like guitar walls of sound.

From one of Hugh’s most “produced” songs to one of his most stripped back in his paean to his beloved Cadiz in Spain. The Abbey Road remaster brings out the layers in the chorus and the verse backing vocals and there is a noticeable brightness to the version on this compilation.

Long Dead Train was a favourite of a lot of fans when Guilty was released back in 1997, and it was always a great live track. I hope it’s inclusion on this compilation leads to it finding its way back into Hugh’s next full-band shows. I’ve always loved the Elvis “uh-huhs” in the chorus.

I wasn’t sure what Wolf‘s Getting Involved would sound like on this compilation, as its one of the most 80s sounding tracks in Hugh’s back catalogue but the remaster has beefed the track up a little. Yes it still sounds like the 80s – but it was from the 80s, theres no getting away with it!

The final track is a 2015 recording of the live favourite Live It And Breathe It. Guitars and drums to the fore, we are treated to a great guitar solo and more Elvisism’s thrown in from Mr C, so what’s not to like?

So if you are not familiar with Hugh’s work, The Fall and Rise Of Hugh Cornwell should be the perfect introduction. And if you like what you hear, maybe buy his most recent studio album, Totem and Taboo. You can listen to a couple of the tracks on Hugh’s website.

Buy The Fall and Rise of Hugh Cornwell on Amazon

Buy Totem and Taboo on 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: