Greatest Hits 1977–1990 – The Stranglers

Greatest Hits 1977-1990

The Stranglers

1990/1991

Epic

So, I don’t particularly like greatest hits CDs.  I tend to view albums more as an overall artistic endeavor, and not just a collection of songs, which is what a greatest hits cd is.  However, I do own many greatest hits albums (I’m an enigma of a man, obviously), such as this one by Punk / New Wave / 80’s / Whatever Genre You Want To Call Them band The Stranglers.  Greatest hits are good for one thing: obtaining that one amazing song by the band (Well, two things, the second being: getting into said band.  But I still prefer actual albums for that.).

 So, the years from 1977 to 1990 seem to have been a strange time for The Stranglers.  They started off as a punk band and somehow drifted to new wave.  I don’t know much about punk or new wave, but The Stranglers never jumped out too much as being leaders of either movement to me.  However, there is a reason I bought this cd, which I’ll come to, don’t worry.

“Peaches” is the first song on the album.  Being extremely repetitive in its nature, it’s at least a really cool early punk song.  The Stranglers apparently did not follow The Ramones or The Sex Pistols with the idea of a barrage of guitars.  Even at this early stage of their career, The Stranglers are heard using keyboards as a main instrument.

“Something Better Change” follows their focus on mid-tempo guitar and keyboards.  While the punk songs are not the greatest ever, they are really decent, interesting songs.  With the use of all these instruments, The Stranglers show themselves to have a firmer grasp on music theory than their peers.  In fact, the guitar solo in this song has more in common with classic rock than punk.

“No More Heroes” is a more mature take on the previous two tracks.  While not it doesn’t change style much from the others, “No More Heroes” has a focus more on the lyrics than the music.  With lyrics referencing Trotsky, Sancho Panza, and even Lenny Bruce, The Stranglers have found the talent of allusions.  Really, another cool song to listen to.

The next track is a pretty obscure choice for a punk band, a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By”.  And you know what? They do a pretty awesome version.  With an extended keyboard solo, they sound like a hyped-up Doors cover band almost.  Then the prolonged guitar solo comes in, and you can definitely tell that that’s what they were going for.  Note, the singer even half sounds like a British version of Jim Morrison (Just a thought).

“Duchess” is the only hint of a change of direction for the band.  It’s still relatively punk, but steeped with even more keyboards (really).  Honestly, their punk songs were my favorite on the cd, and afterwards listening became more boring.  But this is more upbeat in tempo than the other five songs, and the band sounds enthused.

Which brings us to “Golden Brown”.  This song comes out of nowhere.  This is the reason I bought the album.  “Golden Brown” is one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard, hands down.  In my top ten, maybe even top five.  Honestly.  It completely disregards the six songs that came beforehand on the album.  Whereas track one through six were punk songs heavy with keyboards, churning electric guitars, and non-melodic deep vocals, “Golden Brown” is the exact opposite.  Here, the main instrument is a harpsichord (from Baroque era fame, for those of you with knowledge of musical history), and the vocals are sung at a higher pitch.  Musically, the time signature alternates between 3/4 and 4/4, showing off more musical prowess than one would have thought The Stranglers had.  The guitar solo is beautifully played, which leads into vocals with effects on them.  Listening to “Golden Brown” one would never assume this was a punk, or a new wave band.  If you refuse to listen to anything else on this album, or even by The Stranglers, as long as you hear “Golden Brown” you will be pleased.

And onward.  Most of the rest of the album was forgettable, meaning I’m going to skip over a lot.  “Strange Little Girl” marks the start of The Stranglers change of genre, which you can hear from the opening notes.  It’s the closest song to “Golden Brown” with the vocal style being similar, but they never match the intensity or musicality of the previous song.

“European Female” has a decent acoustic guitar riff, but, do you hear that?  Echoes on the snare drum?  Sounds like the Stranglers started turning into a bad version of Duran Duran.  “Skin Deep” and “Big in America” also follow the Duran Duran style.  The latter even features saxophone (Yeah, really).

“Nice in Nice” would have to be the best song from this period of The Stranglers’ career.  It’s still new wave, but the vocal style is different.  It’s not a growling howl, but nor is it deeply British.  Really, I don’t know what it is.  A high-pitched whisper, maybe?  Nonetheless, this song actually features more guitar, so it’s already different, and actually more catchy.

Lastly, are the two out-of-place cover songs on the album (Not including the already-mentioned cool version of “Walk on By”).  The Kinks “All Day and All of the Night” is redone here, only second-rate.  The Stranglers do it almost exactly like the original, except they add keyboard.  For once being a punk band, The Stranglers make it sound less raw.  Secondly, The Stranglers cover “96 Tears”, originally by ? and the Mysterians.  What a perfect song for them to cover.  With it’s already main instrument of keyboards, the song sounds like it was written specifically for The Stranglers.  They don’t add anything particularly new (just some horns here and there), but they do do an outstanding job.  But both songs don’t fit in with the already eclectic collection of songs (Just another reason why I don’t really like greatest hits albums).

I should really obtain the band’s first few albums, or at least La Folie (which featured “Golden Brown”).  Greatest Hits 1977-1990 is exactly what it says, just a collection of songs from the forgotten band The Stranglers.  It provides a good view of what the band was about during this era (they are still around today, surprisingly), showing that they changed from punk to new wave.  However, it doesn’t show how they changed.  The songs jump from one genre to the next with barely any hint that the band was heading in a new wave direction.  Maybe something is lost in translation with this being a greatest hits collection, or maybe that’s what The Stranglers were.  Either way, I’ll gladly put “Golden Brown” on repeat.

Last.fm Page

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