Moon Duo – Stars Are the Light – Album in the Month

Moon Duo – Stars Are the Light – Album in the Month

Moon Duo is a group formed in 2009 and comprises of San Francisco-based guitarist Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) and keyboardist Sanae Yamada. The result of this fortuitous combination is a heady mix of swirling psychedelic space rock. Interestingly Moon Duo’s members are married. Perhaps this chemistry is what makes the sound so rich and consistent.

This post is in part a gift to my father on his birthday. I won’t tell you how old he is as this would breach parent doctor confidentiality. So thank you father, for introducing me to this wonderful album. I trust this review is to your standards. And happy birthday.

While Stars Are the Light is completely different than other Moon Duo albums, it is by no means a disappointment. It is a very groovy record, full of disco and funk beats. It was also brought to life with the help of Sonic Boom, a former member of Spaceman 3, who has also worked with Beach House. Any fan of Moon Duo or psych-rock will not be let down by Stars Are the Light. Glide

Moon Duo is split into eight tracks. The first of which is Flying. The bossanova beats and funky grooves throughout mark the opening track as quite singular in the Moon Duo cannon. Its driving bass marks the generally impressive consistency of all the tracks in this album.

The titular track follows which, for me, demonstrates the lighter more airy side of Moon Duo without compromising on the integrity or quality of the central sound. The sound is refined, positive and consuming. It envelops the listener, in part thanks to the wonderful synth stylings of Yamada.

 

By using splashes of guitar as punctuation points, synth work is pushed to the forefront, this works wonders on “The World And The Sun” which takes a funky but meandering electronic track which goes nowhere, albeit pleasantly until washes of atmospheric synth work elevates the track into glorious synthesised euphoria. Even better, “Lost Heads” has the duo’s vocals intertwining sweetly over the monotonous structure of electronica and nagging keyboard riffs, the otherworldy nature is akin to being awake in a dream. The Line of Best Fit

Eternal Shore is delightful and upbeat. The guitar work, as seen in Wooden Shjips, is wonderful and complex. Once again the drive in this track is consistent with the rest of those in this album.

Finally, Fever Night is a suitably grand ending to this album. It encapsulates the enveloping sound of Moon Duo and is a track very much in line with the musical aesthetic of the band.

My final three reflections on this album are as follows:

  1. Stars Are the Light provides a precise, enveloping synth sound
  2. Moon Duo have provided a wonderfully idiosyncratic album
  3. This album is a big concept with excellent execution

Overall I remain impressed by this album and listen to it often, especially when I have to concentrate on complex legal texts. I hope you do too, though I hope you do not have to be subject to legal analysis while listening to any music.

Beverly Glenn Copeland – Keyboard Fantasies – AOTM November 2020

Beverly Glenn Copeland – Keyboard Fantasies – AOTM November 2020

This is an album which has so surprised and delighted me that I have not been able to stop listening to it for the last two months and felt I needed to share with you. This was an album released in 1986 and largely commercially ignored until the artist was 72 (2016).

The artist responsible is Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a man endowed with such rare fortune that he remained more or less a non-entity to the music-curious public until the age of 72 when a particularly influential record collector from Japan sent him a life-altering email asking for any remaining physical copies of his early music. Deep into a peaceful, years-long toil in the Canadian hinterlands with his wife, Copeland was suddenly faced with the task of living his way out of a placid, relatively private existence, and into one in which documentarians tour his home like a museum and take seriously his thoughts on the intersection between science and the divine. Pitchfork

Copeland bought an Atari computer and two synthesizers—the Roland TR-707 and the Yamaha DX7 to create Keyboard Fantasies, a work of, I believe, supreme and simple beauty. Pitchfork describes the album as “a sextet of chuggy, spare, somnambulant pieces built by some of the most basic preset tones from the DX7.” I am inclined to agree. The opening track, Ever New, is serene and peaceful as well as beautifully composed. Copeland’s vocal talent is the icing on the cake.

Winter Astral is a wonderfully sparse synthesizer journey which pulled me straight in. Let Us Dance may be my favourite piece on the album. The drum work and synthesized bells just blow me away. To think this is all programmed in a computer and played on a keyboard baffles me. There is a great energy and progression to Let Us Dance which borders on hypnotic.

 

Old Melody is almost oriental in feel and superlatively dreamy in delivery. Sunset Village is considered by many an exceptional piece and is certainly an excellent way to close this wonderful collection of songs. The final piece of Keyboard Fantasies is otherworldly in a way I struggle to describe. It treads the line between familiarity and a feeling truly alien in a beautiful way. Like so many retirement villages of the same name, the track is in a way a peaceful resting place.

I could not describe this album better than Pitchfork have in their closing paragraph:

Stare at that window long enough and you can start to imagine everything—the sea, the sky, the sand, even Copeland—in a state of total suspension, deepened by the light of a sun that seems like it takes forever to set. He has never really needed much to grant him fullness. We’re so obviously the ones that do.

I would also like to bring your attention to Glenn Copeland’s debut album which is self titled:

The folk is freaky. The riffs are seraphic. With all the leider residue in his arias and tremolos, these albums feel like songbooks of spirituals for the unspiritual. There have been obvious parallels made to Joni Mitchell in the music’s blueness and timbre—especially in how Copeland warbles like god has just asked him a difficult favor—but a more fitting comparison would be to Judee Sill, an artist who shares with him an alloy of Christian folklore, Bach-indebted chord progressions, and a sense of servitude to a quiet, inarticulable secret. “By and large, the early music was looking at death, love and the difficulty of love,” he once indifferently summed, though I would argue that a track like “Untitled (Make the Answer Yes),” is the sort of song that one could sensibly choose to be buried to. Pitchfork

I hope both these albums bring to you as profound a joy as they brought me.

 

Wamono A To Z Vol. I – Japanese Jazz Funk & Rare Groove 1968-1980 – AOTM September 2020

Wamono A To Z Vol. I – Japanese Jazz Funk & Rare Groove 1968-1980 – AOTM September 2020

Would you believe I purchased this wonderful album pre-release, on vinyl in July, some two months before it was due for release. I had forgotten my impulse buy until I received an email confirming the record was on its way. Wamono A-Z Vol. I consists of a collection of Japanese funk fusion tunes compiled masterfully by DJ Yoshizawa Dynamite & Chintam. Yoshizawa is a renowned remixer compiler and producer. His career spans over three decades. DJ Chintam worked as a record buyer before opening his Blow Up shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya district in 2018. He is. specialist of soul, funk and rare grooves. Together, they wrote the Wamono A-Z record guide in 2015, which sold out instantly. This record focusses on rare funk fusion tunes between 1968 and 1980. It is not available on digital format which makes it all the more special to me.

A1 –Toshiko Yonekawa – Sōran Bushi

A2 –Takeo Yamashita – A Touch Of Japanese Tone

A3 –Tadaaki Misago & Tokyo Cuban Boys – Jongara Reggae

A4 –Chikara Ueda & The Power Station – Cloudy

A5 –Chumei Watanabe – Downtown Blues

B1 –Kifu Mitsuhashi – Hanagasa Ondo

B2 –Monica Lassen & The Sounds – Incitation

B3 –Norio Maeda, Jiro Inagaki & The All-Stars – Go Go A Go Go

B4 –Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalo & The Jazz Rock Band – The Sidewinder

B5 –Masahiko Sato*, Jiro Inagaki & Big Soul Media – Sniper’s Snooze

Wamono means Japanese made or in the Japanese style. If you have ever been within a one mile radius of me, you will be keenly aware that I have visited Japan. Alas I did not have the time or desire then to explore Japanese music in any depth. So I was most pleased, years later, to find this album advertised on BandCamp quite by chance. Sadly I cannot embed any videos of this vinyl so you will have to take my word for it.

In light of the above, I shall condense this review to three standout tracks for me, the first being the opening number. With a genre as rare as obscure Japanese funk fusion, it stands to reason they should open with a showstopper. Soran Bushi is an amazing opener, beginning as an almost generic funk piece before being turbo charged by wonderful shamisen playing. The shamisen is a three stringed Japanese guitar. For reference, please see the video below. Overall the track is a terrific fresh take on the funk genre and took me completely by surprise.

 

My second highlight is also on side one of the record but is the last track. Downtown Blues promotes another traditional instrument, the fue or shinobue flute. This is a flute which emits a high pitched sound, integral to noh and kabuki theatre music. Please find a lovely performance below. The track itself is a beautifully structured, engaging and energetic funk fusion piece, which, once again, totally took me by surprise.

 

Hanagasa Ondo deserves a special mention. This track features a vibraphone which I came to love listening to early Lionel Hampton records when I was younger. This combined with the fue and outstanding drumming and a terrific groove, then catapulted by electric guitar make for a truly spectacular track. One is severely tempted to stand up and boogie. Also, by some miracle, I have managed to find a youtube video of the second track on side two, which is really outstanding. Please see it embedded below. This was the fifth track on the 1970 Japan release only album Woman! by Monica Lassen and the Sounds and was designed to be a study of female behaviour. To this end, I would ask you to ignore the vulgar sounds in the middle of the track and focus on the excellent groovy sound! This track is demonstrative of the overall excellence of this compilation.

 

Sidewinder is my final highlight of this album. I should like to say each track is uniquely joyous in it’s own way and really very cool. The sidewinder is a track I have been familiar with for some time. This reimagined Japanese funk fusion version by Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalo & The Jazz Rock Band somehow manages to enhance an already excellent tune. The Sidewinder was originally a 10 1/2 minute whopping track by Lee Morgan, Jazz trumpeter, on the excellent 1964 album by the same name. This version is just excellent, lively, driven and funky.

Ultimately, this compilation is a whirlwind album which took me to all sorts of places, many of them new. I would ask you to buy it but I do not make a penny from this blog so I shall let you make the decision for yourselves. I for one have been bowled over by the originality and newness of this album. This will certainly be prime listening at my next dinner party, whenever that may be…

Brian Davison’s Every Which Way – AOTM August 2020

Brian Davison’s Every Which Way – AOTM August 2020

There are very few albums which give me pause. There are fewer which make me stop everything and recognise instinctively that I have discovered Album of the Month. Brian Davison’s Every Which Way is one such album. How did I alight upon such an album? The story is quite ordinary I assure you. Matthew and I went for a walk to the closest piece of green on the map to us (the perils of city centre living include not much fresh air). On our way back from Calthorpe Park (established 1857, don’t you know) I spotted the Diskery. Now, being someone who is inwardly wary of shocking colour combinations, I never thought much of it in the past. But when I went in, I was amazed by the sheer variety of vinyl available. And you’ll never guess what was playing on the shop stereo at the time…

Bass Guitar – Alan Cartwright

Drums, Percussion – Brian Davison

Electric Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals – Graham Bell

Engineer – Malcolm Toft, Roy Baker

Lead Guitar – John Hedley

Painting [Cover] – Nan Cuz

Producer – Brian Davison

Reeds, Flute, Backing Vocals – Geoffrey Peach

And so my love affair with Brian Davison’s Every Which Way began. Bear in mind that in these COVID times one is loath to spend too much time in confined indoor spaces outside the home. Therefore I heard only one track from the album but this was enough to activate my spidey senses. More on this later.

The vocals are handled by Graham Bell, who sang for the equally obscure Skip Bifferty and whose voice has the same quality as a young Stevie Winwood: in-tune, soulful shout-style belting. Brian Davison—recently of The Nice until that band fell apart—delivers the kind of percussion work that I don’t often get the pleasure of hearing on hard rock records- nuanced, powerful and engaging, rather than self-indulgent and boring. The rest of the line-up is equally up to the task. The Vinyl Press

The first track, of six, on this wonderful album is Bed Ain’t What It Used To Be. The opening is extraordinary, laying bare the foundation of fantastic talent which would carry through the rest of the album. The opening notes are an example of the extraordinary production which is to follow. The drumming is just sublime. There is a bluesy feel in the guitar playing and the repetition of lyrics to emphasise the sorrow Davison must have felt at the time of writing. Watch out for the saxophone, which is withering at points. The first time I listened to this album in full was directly after hearing Alice Coltrane’s Journey In Satchidananda. The withering, tortured saxophone of Bed Ain’t What It Used to Be followed so well.

Castle Sands is a wonderful contrast to the preceding track. The flute is in direct contrast to the guitar and drum mastery of the previous track which is so surprising. Who expects flutes in prog rock? Jethro Tull almost certainly took inspiration from this. Then again they might not have. Who is to say? There was also a mention of mental health in the lyrics also, which really surprised me. Listen out for the waves crashing at 2.35. Groovy.

Sat and watched the passing day
Where people cried and tried to say
Expression of a different kind
Crying in their mind

Go Placidly is a more up tempo track to lead us into All In Time, which we shall discuss shortly. The sequencing in this album is really stellar. Not lyrically rich but there are some special phrases which stuck out to me. This is the perfect song to precede All in Time.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams
It is still a beautiful world

All In Time is the first track I heard of this album while at the Diskery. I maintain this is the standout on the album. A 9-minute anthem, this is epic on a scale reminiscent of The Tale of Brave Ulysses by Cream (listen to Toad for a drumming masterclass) or selected pieces from Spirit’s 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus. The ‘Ooh Child’ followed by the drum and guitar combination is masterful. This builds up to a crescendo at 5 minutes where the track really takes off. The saxophone mimicking the guitar is inspired. The abrupt ending is almost rude!

What You Like is a slower track to calm us down after the scale of the previous track. The drums are the highlight for me as well as the insistent whining saxophone which really adds to the track. The saxophone and guitar solos towards the end of the track are on another level.

 

Finally, The Light is an exemplary ending. The guitar at the beginning is magnificent. Overall in the track, one gets a sense of the extraordinary collective talent that was felt in the first track and indeed throughout the album. The undercurrent of the drums and guitar throughout the track add to the strong drive which propels this track forward.

Overall, Brian Davison’s Every Which Way is an experience best heard. It totally took me by surprise. My three key observations are as follows:

  1. This album is a totally unique, one of a kind collectible.
  2. When considered collectively, the talent displayed by this band is breathtaking.
  3. It is a great shame that Brian Davison Every Which Way made only one album before breaking up.

I hope you enjoy and appreciate this beautiful jewel in the crown of rock history.

Marillion, Misplaced Childhood – AOTM July 2020

Marillion, Misplaced Childhood – AOTM July 2020

1985 was a great year for music. One saw the likes of Rush’s Power Windows, Saint Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love (work of genius), Cupid & Psyche 85, Smiths’ Meat is Murder (see Barbarism Begins at Home), Propaganda’s A Secret Wish, and of course, Tears for Fears’ massive hit Songs From the Big Chair (personal favourite). But lurking in the shadows of these smash pop goliaths was a prog rock masterpiece by the name of Misplaced Childhood. I first heard this driving to and from the Saturday market in Loches, a charming French market town which boasts excellent almond croissants.

They were deemed so unfashionable in the era of The Smiths, the Mary Chain and The Cure that those who’d seen the light were only galvanized by the opprobrium. To hear Misplaced Childhood – the band’s masterpiece and biggest seller – now, out of context, liberated from playground peer pressure, is to recognise a truly great concept album. It’s one that believes 41 minutes of rock music can – like a film or book – aim for the stars and present a story full of emotion, poetry and, above all, drama. Prog Archives

The personnel on this remarkable album are as follows:

Fish – vocals; cover concept

Steve Rothery – guitars; additional bass guitar;

Mark Kelly – keyboards

Pete Trewavas – bass guitar

Ian Mosley – drums, percussion

Pseudo Silk Kimono kicks off the album in great Marillion style, lyrically dense and musically beautiful. The opening bars of synth are just majestic. Listen to the way that the keyboard punctuates the gorgeous lyrics. “Naked of understanding” is one of my favourite lines in the album. “The spirit of a misplaced childhood” is introduced at this stage in the album and is a theme which follows the album through. Listen out for the bass throughout this track.

And the misconception that prog is all about indulgent jamming and noodling? There’s zero fat here. Everything lasts exactly as long as feels right. Prog Archives

Kayleigh is of course a love song replete with longing and regret. The really impressive part of this is the seamless transition from the previous track. I almost didn’t see it happening. It was only because I was following the lyrics on the inside sleeve of the vinyl cover that I noticed at all. The balance of instruments here is key and hints at the excellent production value of the album overall.

 

Lavender follows, again seamlessly, and hits us with the wonderful lyric “IOU for your love”. Listen to the ingenuity of the lyrics throughout – “A spider wanders aimlessly…” – just superb. There is a beautiful languishing bridge between this song and the next.

Bitter Suite is made up of five movements five movements.

  1. Brief Encounter
  2. Lost Weekend
  3. Blue Angel
  4. Misplaced Rendezvous
  5. Windswept Thumb

Each of these are unique and marked by a change in the musical style. This track has a strong focus on lyricism and a wide range of ingenious conceptuality made real by excellent musicianship and top class production. The prog sweep at the end of the final movement is so very Genesis.

Heart of Lothian closes side 1. Lothian is a region of the Scottish Lowlands, between the southern shore of the Firth of Forth and the Lammermuir and Moorfoot Hills, respectively. This is split into two movements (Wide Boy and Curtain Call) and is a love song in a way, to the rise and fall of the album’s central protagonist, heralding from this part of Scotland. This track is almost ballad like, but ends up a greatly felt and passionate piece of prog with, again, some superlative lyrics: “looking like an actor in a movie shot // feeling like a wino in a parking lot”

 

Waterhole opens side 2 in a distinctly more poppy fashion, perhaps rewarding us with something simpler after a tumultuous first side. Social commentary is as present as ever in the lyrics here: “Pattern merchants selling false impressions” and “wide boys wear love bites for their crimes” – terrific!

Lord of the Backstage has a really strong riff. Once again the transitions between the tracks are seamless. “I walk the backstage // a creature of language”.

Blind Curve is, again, split into five distinct movements.

  1. Vocal Under a Bloodlight
  2. Passing Strangers
  3. Mylo
  4. Perimeter Walk (one can almost feel the longing in this movement)
  5. Threshold

The guitar solo and synth work are top shelf in this track. Each movement is punctuated by a change of music again. There is a real mastery of language throughout this album making the lyrics somewhat akin to poetry. Please note the excellently yelled “THE CHILDHOOD” in thick Lothian Scottish.

Childhood’s End is, to me, inspired by Rush in its beginning. The lyrics are especially heartbreaking here. Fish sings of finding direction after a woeful childhood and coming out stronger as a result, which bleeds seamlessly into the raucous final track, White Feather.

That cohesive thematic structure is mirrored by the arrangements, which flow elegantly from the artful synth-and-volume-pedal textures of opener “Pseudo Silk Kimono” to triumphant rock closer “White Feather.” Steve Rothery’s New Wave-y riffs give the album a decidedly ’80s sheen, but his Steve Hackett-esque solos keep the songs grounded in the prog idiom. Keyboardist Mark Kelly takes a similar approach, moving from breezy synth pads to intricate melodic runs. Ultimate Classic Rock

White Feather closes the show with a final seamless transition from the previous track. A real loud rock anthem-like closer which builds on the strength of the album as a whole. This is a really strong note to end on.

I’m proud to own my heart // This is my heart

These are our hearts // You can’t steal our hearts away

Overall, Misplaced Childhood is more than an album. It is both a journey and an experience. The production is flawless, the lyricism is groundbreaking and the musicality is outstanding. The sequencing cannot be praised enough – this album tells the story of a tragic journey from failure to success, musically and lyrically in a deeply moving way. Misplaced Childhood’s concept is huge and was pulled off exceptionally well. The skill of each player is on full display across the album.

This is a truly moving and important album.

 

The Stranglers, Rattus Norvegicus – AOTM June 2020

The Stranglers, Rattus Norvegicus – AOTM June 2020

Choosing Rattus as album of the month this month was bold. Producing a review for this masterwork is rather very difficult. You would not believe it from first listening but this album was released in 1977, making it 43 years old at the time of writing. While the likes of ABBA, Fleetwood Mac and Barbara Streisand dominated the charts, the Stranglers thought they would unleash a torrent of dark punk energy on the world. And by gum, it worked.

With Hugh Cornwell on vocals and guitar; Dave Greenfield (RIP) on keyboard and vocals; Jet Black on Drums and Jean Jaques Burnel on Bass Guitar, this album features the classic old school Stranglers line up. Before I go into the music, I wanted to mention Dave Greenfield. He passed away, sadly, in early May 2020. This post is as much a tribute to The Stranglers as it is to the genius that was Dave Greenfield. I won’t claim to be an expert, and neither does The Guardian (who misattribute his death to COVID, when this was only a small factor in his cause of death, in typical mainstream media style), but they have written an excellent Obituary, which I encourage you to read.

Its distinctive combination of lyrical anger and organ-driven sleaze was both deeply confrontational and musically accomplished. This was an album that found considerable success by crossing barriers: those older music fans who found the minimalism of The Damned or the Ramones a little too off-putting could deal with the snaking arabesques of Hugh Cornwell’s guitar solos, Jean Jacques Burnel’s growling Fender Precision bass or Dave Greenfield’s frankly psychedelic organ arpeggios. Oh, and some great tunes. BBC Music

As well you know, I live and breathe music. I grew up with The Stranglers, despite being a teenager in the early 2010s. My Great Grandfather moved home from Haxby to Harrogate in North Yorkshire when I was about 14. Downsizing does require some sacrifices, as you can imagine. I got the old Sharp CMS 150 Hi-Fi which didn’t make the cut. It looked like the photograph below, with equally big speakers. This was my introduction to vinyl, as well as tapes CDs and FM radio (mostly BBC Radio 3 in those days, before I tired of the nasal pomposity and unattainable scope of knowledge they propagate). The first LP I heard was Men At Work, Business As Usual. Of course I wasn’t aware that there was a difference between 33RPM and 45RPM. I played this first LP on the latter setting and thought Ivan Doroschuk had taken rather a heavy dose of helium.

Sharps compact stereo music system. | in Norwich, Norfolk | Gumtree

Eventually I riffled through Father’s vinyl collection and landed on Rattus Norvegicus. My understanding of the concept of music expanded irretrievably from then on.

You must understand that when your introduction to punk and rock starts with the album that features Down in the Sewer, nothing can ever be the same.

On the Rattus picture sleeve, French bassist Jean Jaques Burnel affected a lean, asexual allure that hinted at Roxy and Bowie: next to him, unfashionably bearded keyboard player Dave Greenfield could have been touring with heavy/prog rockers Uriah Heep. Behind them, drummer Jet Black (unfashionably old for punk at 35) and guitarist and vocalist Hugh Cornwell loomed like two faces who wouldn’t have been out of place working a London crime firm. On this form, The Stranglers skilfully implied danger rather than bellowed it. We Are Cult

Now to the music: the opening number, Sometimes, immediately puts the Stranglers in sharp contrast to their punk contemporaries by demonstrating that they can actually play their instruments. Immediately all three main instruments shine in their own light. The keyboard in particular is very impressive here. The lyricism is pure punk, spitting out anger leading up to a stunning solo from Cornwell. Please take note of the production value here and throughout this album. These are flawlessly produced tracks with seamless transitions between motifs and riffs, with a beautifully balanced sound where no instrument walks over another.

While IV [Rattus] may be ill-tempered and downright ugly in its misogyny at times, its anything but dull. Where most Punk bands were ranting against society, the Stranglers focused on inner conflict. IV is a frustrated, angry tug of war of sex, conscience and low self-esteem. It’s downright perverse in its sarcasm and nihilism. In short, it’s not a very pleasant place to be but like anything with a dark allure, you can’t resist going down that alley once it presents itself. Soundlab

Goodbye Toulouse used to be one of my favourite Stranglers tracks. It tells the story of Nostradamus’ prediction of the downfall of the city. I’m so drawn to a weird keyboard wizardry that Greenfield unleashes on us. It reminds me of Waltz in Black and the more choice experimental tracks on Side 2 of The Raven, which I love. One of Top Ten tracks ever is Lilies and Remains by Bauhaus – which is reminiscent of this Otherness which the Stranglers are so known for. Goodbye Toulouse itself features a relentless bass-line and, again, flawless production and balance.

London Lady (Why did you lay me? // Your head is crowded with the names you’ve hounded) is pure punk rock late 70s misogyny. If you’re revolted by this, good for you. Keep it up. I would encourage music listeners to separate the ignorance of times gone by from the merits of the musicality of a piece or track. Watch out for the cascading guitar in this track, which is just awesome.

‘London Lady’ follows and is a nasty bit of derision aimed at a female rock journalist […] Malicious and vengeful as it is, it’s all spat out with so much self-loathing, you’re inclined to think Cornwell may have richly deserved the slight that’s gotten under his skin.  In other words, he makes no pretence of being any better than the bile he’s hurling. Soundlab

Princess of the Streets tells the story of a Regina George-like pack leader who is out to cause trouble. This features extraordinary bass and keyboard with solos flawlessly woven in.

Hanging Around remains one of my top tracks by the Stranglers. The characterisation in the lyrics is superlative (Big girl in the red dress // She’s just trying to impress us. Standing in the Coleherne // With the leather all around me). This is a reflective punk piece which takes pot shots at religion and the London club scene life. The solos are incredible.

Peaches (oh boy) doesn’t really need to be spoken about I think. It’s an excellent track and speaks to the typical beach gawking pervert and the perceived enormity of female bottoms. There is innuendo and plenty of lechery. This is overplayed in my opinion. Every band needs their most popular track but it is seldom their best musically. One should not trust the music taste of the general public.

 

Grip was my previous top Stranglers track (before Down in the Sewer and Walk On By changed my life). This track is a sharp contrast to the poppy stylings of the previous tracks. In my notes for this review, I have underlined ‘keyboard’ with a choice expletive. Greenfield is truly in his element here.

Ugly is once again a terribly misogynistic track which epitomises this dark punk rock energy. It is filled with vitriol and anger at the hideous subject but also at themselves for feeling this way. The synth and lyrics really stand out here (I would like to see a passionate // film between // the two ugliest // people in the world // when I say ugly, I don’t mean rough looking // I mean hideous)

Now, Down in the Sewer, where to begin? In my estimation this is inspired by the Doors’ Light My Fire. Indeed a lot of Greenfield’s keyboard stylings can be seen to stem from the wonderful musical stylings of Ray Manzarek. This track is an 8 minute masterpiece and is undoubtedly the crowning jewel of this album, if not the entire Stranglers repertoire. The lyricism, the central riff which holds the piece together, the cycling through solos – everything in this piece is aimed at letting the audience know who the Stranglers are and how good they are.

IT JUST TAKES OFF!!! Nicholas Jenkins (neé Saint)

They’ve got sharp teeth *clack clack clack* // Deep breath // And lots of diseases

I wish there were some way to describe the excellence of this track. It’s so suffused in brilliance that I find it difficult to talk about. The keyboard, synth, drums and guitar are all flawless and follow one another seamlessly (into the sewer?) into an insane crescendoing euphoric ending. The end bass is magisterial and reminiscent of the earlier bass during the first solo cycle. One reviewer noted the end of this track is like 1000 Rattus Norvegicus running all over your speakers. The track comes full circle and ends leaving you feeling breathless, needing a few minutes to readjust.

Rattus Norvegicus is the kind of album that will leave you feeling awed at the power of music and the sheer talent of those performing it. It is a jewel in the crown of punk and a deciding factor in late 70s English musical brilliance. I am constantly amazed by this album. It is over 40 years old but has not lost one note of its excellence. Why has this album survived? I believe in part due to the novel genius it displays. That spark of individual inspiration is so rare in music. Often one can dissect a new band using what came before. With the Stranglers, it is more difficult to see this. One can find their roots with ease but they branched out so far from them that they have become seminal artists themselves.