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Revenus des errances de The Meninblack, les Stranglers font appel au légendaire Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex, Thin Lizzy…) pour les produire et composent dans une optique plus traditionnellement « rock », parvenant en fait à concrétiser un album bon d’un bout à l’autre, leur meilleur depuis Rattus Norvegicus, et où Hugh Cornwell n’a peut-être jamais aussi bien chanté.
Mais cela ne sera pas remarqué sur le coup : premier extrait en simple, l’efficace « Let Me Introduce You To The Family » désarçonne à nouveau les auditeurs, à cause de ses accents plutôt funk et ne rencontre pas le succès. Celui-ci vient quelques mois plus tard, mais un peu par hasard : malgré les objections de Jean-Jacques Burnel, le poignant « Golden Brown » sort ensuite en single et devient le plus grand hit des Stranglers (privé de la première place en Angleterre par les Jam de « A Town Called Malice » : quelle époque !). Accessoirement, il sauve La Folie de l’oubli et leur vaut même un Ivor Novello Award, un comble pour des punks. Finalement, pour satisfaire Burnel, le groupe sort ensuite au lieu de « Tramp » le morceau « La Folie », peut-être le plus anti-commercial de tout l’album et qui fait retomber le soufflé. Depuis longtemps en délicatesse avec EMI, les Stranglers vont poursuivre leurs aventures chez Epic (CBS) mais en dépit de quelques réussites, ils ne retrouveront plus le niveau de leurs débuts.
Avec la réédition CD de 2001, six chansons supplémentaires prolongent le plaisir que procure cet album impeccable, avec en conclusion « Strange Little Girl », merveille de douceur dont on croyait incapables ces « hommes qu’on aime détester » mais qui savaient si bien créer la surprise…
Frédéric Régent - Copyright 2017 Music Story
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What a treat! I remember their other records as great. But this one seemed kind of too pop, you know, with "Golden Brown." Boy was I wrong.
On second listen now I know why they called the next one Aural Sculpture. The sound here really IS sculpture. This is SOUND on the RAZOR's EDGE. All these guys have intelligence to spare, and one wonders if it was Hugh or all of them but whatever it was... it sure clicked. Especially the original cuts. The extras are OK and historically instructing, but the first 7 are amazing examples of how simple rock forms can become works of the best kind of intelligent art sound.
The choices of timbre, harmony, mix and structure are unexpected, impeccable and swing like mad. There are no fillers and no clichés. All instruments are used sparely to create one coherent sound. All are excellent. I can think of no better bass player and I own thousands of records. The sound he gets is incredible, vicious even. Usually the bass is a supporting instrument, but here its part of the whole contributing to the shape of the sound. The others are just as good. I was never impressed by Hugh's guitar, but now I'm smarter and I hear just how carefully considered Hugh's timbres are. He and Dave simultaneously contrast and complement each other as each player weaves the net.
The lyrics are a little difficult to make out but they are interesting too. No clichés here either. No clear cut meanings but definitely wry comments on philosophy and modern life.
Strong 5 stars from a band inexplicably less famous than most of the standardized punk bands. Unfair of course but that seems to be the way. Challenging listening, not for the background. My only lament is there are not more of these to buy.
I get the impression the Stranglers are now making music for themselves as a pose to get to the crowed rocking. Its no surprise that during their live performances they often source back to the first four albums and don't delve too deeply into 5 and 6. Which they deserve credit for not giving the market more of them same but delving into new some might say softer territory but I find this album is one I can take or leave depending on what mode I'm in it will reward patient listening but it is certainly an acquired finite taste.
Like the main review says, this is their most musically skilled album besides The Raven - reminds me alot of that one in how audible and dominating the guitar is, as apposed to Rattus Norvegicus and Black and White, where it's even hard to tell if there's guitar in the song sometimes (and while it's dominating half the songs on Rattus, the guitarwork sounds very simplistic compared to here), or Aural Sculpture, which while great, has little guitarwork from the brillant Cornwell.
The first four tracks on here are possibly one of the best sets of opening tracks for a Stranglers album. Non Stop has poppy, but great, keyboards by Greenfield dominating the song, with simplistic and catchy guitarwork by Cornwell. Fantastic vocal performance by Cornwell that fits the song just right, and as with every track on here, Burnell drives it on with his imaginitive and catchy bass line. Everybody Loves You When You're Dead has good interplay between all four instruments on the introductory part, this one's mostly dominated by bass and keyboards - some really funny lyrics on this one, like "They laugh at you with your trousers down, and pick they stones so they will match your head", with the right atmosphere and attitude provided vocally by Cornwell. Tramp almost made me think the band had returned to their early days, with the name of the song and such - but nevertheless, this is one of the best songs on this album. Harmonic vocals, buzzing keyboards, syncopated and driving drums, and another great bass line all come together to form a mighty fine song here. By all means, this should have been chosen as the second single instead of the title track - the title track is great alright, but in terms of which song had a better chance of continuing the band's popularity, Tramp probably had better chances than La Folie ended up doing. Let Me Introduce You To The Family draws you in with Black's bass drum, followed by fluttering bass sounds, until the odd guitar comes in, supporting by the pulsating bass - never heard anything like this here, but it doesn't matter because it's very catchy and is probably some of the best guitarwork on this album. Interesting lyrically too, with its mafia undertones.
Ain't Nothing To It is one I feel is a weaker track here, but The Men They Love To Hate is fairly good. Really good drumwork throughout here by Black - this track shows how underrated he is not only as a drummer, but also how well he can keep a good rhythm. The guitars and keyboards go hand in hand here, usually following the same melody and notes. Pin Up has more catchy keyboard work by Greenfield along with another great vocal showcase by Cornwell. Golden Brown has not only the best vocals on here by Cornwell, besides Pin Up and Tramp, but the harpsichord / keyboard interplay is very interesting and flows together extremely well - the guitar bit is very harmonic as well. The whole feel of this excellent song is just plain soothing - how ironic that it's most likely about heroin? It's no surprise that this became probably the band's biggest hit. The title track is equally as soothing, with some great Greenfield keyboard work, excellent Burnell bass work, and sparse drums as well as guitar work. Even though I don't understand what Burnell is saying at all (I don't really know French), he still sings very well here, one of his best vocal performances most likely.
Of the bonus tracks, the only ones worth mentioning, as I see it, are Vietnamerica and Strange Little Girl. Vietnamerican has good vocals, driving bass, and jittery keyboards - sounds really good for a B-side. Strange Little Girl has some of the best keyboards I've heard Greenfield come up with - they dominate the song and add a soothing atmosphere to it, with a fifth fantastic vocal showcase by Cornwell - too bad he's more involved with vocals on this song than guitar, as there's only acoustic guitar present here, and not much of it.
Overall, the great songs on here, combined with the outstanding musicianship of all four of the original bandmembers makes this a great album to listen to for any Stranglers fan.