THE STRANGLERS – STRANGLERS IV (RATTUS NORVEGICUS)

“Rattus Norvegicus”

“Stranglers IV (Rattus Norvegicus” (United Artists UAG 30045) April 1977

The Stranglers “Rattus Norvegicus” – Just about the only predictable thing about rock is that as soon as something new comes along, there’s always someone willing to jump on the bandwagon. Even more predictable is that punk rock / new wave is going to get more than its fair share of these jerks, simply because it is a genre without rules and regulations.

The Stranglers strike me as one such group attempting to cash in. On the face of it, they’ve got all the punk credentials: the name, the musical incompetence, even a gig supporting Patti Smith. But one look at this album is enough to let you know where The Stranglers are at – or, perhaps, where their record company would like them to be at.

There’s a beautifully designed sleeve and inner sleeve, a special label with The Stranglers’ rat logo even – try and hide the groans – a free single. ELP should be so lucky! As a special bonus for us lucky reviewers, there’s a bundle of press cuttings, fax, pix and info, a press release that’s magnificently mistyped and – here comes the real killer – a card from their press-and-public-relations consultant.

This is the music of disaffected youth, struggling against a hard business that won’t give them a break? Smells more like hype to me. The music on the album confirms that The Stranglers have little or nothing to offer.

They’re singularly lacking in all of the virtues that new-wave bands like The Clash, The Damned and the Pistols have as their saving grace; they’re about as energetic as a slug, and their lyrics, far from providing an outlet for the frustrations of today’s young, are the same old tripe used by most of the bands the punks love to hate – but with a few naughty swear words thrown in.

Here’s an example of the wit and wisdom of The Stranglers from “Peaches”

“Strolling along, minding my own business
Well there goes a girl now
Hi, she’s got me going up and down
She’s got me going up and down
Walking on the beaches looking at the peaches.
Well I’ve got the notion girl that you’ve got some suntan lotion in that bottle of yours
Spread it all over my peeling skin, baby, that feels real good.
All the skirts lapping up the sun, lap me up.”

“Peaches”

All this delivered in the usual arrogant tone, as though it was something momentous, and over a stunningly boring keyboard-dominated riff. It has been suggested that The Stranglers resemble The Doors: an insult if I ever heard one. It’s true that the opening cut, “Sometimes”, sounds like it’s based on the “Light My Fire” organ solo; yet they are more akin to a late-’60s Detroit band, SRC, through their use of keyboards, but without half the Americans’ style in exploiting doom-laden chords, nor even anything as remotely cheeky as combining “Hall Of The Mountain King” with “Beck’s Bolero”.

In truth, The Stranglers are no more than a cut-rate version of ’60s American punk bands, but with none of the fizz that made that music so enjoyable. About the only thing they do well is write the titles to their songs; “Grip”, “Down In The Sewer” and “Ugly” promise something more interesting than a succession of deadening riffs and a noticeable lack of ideas. The only sense in which The Stranglers could be considered new wave is that no one has had the gall to palm off this rubbish before.

(Melody Maker, 23/04/77)

How three blind mice musicians are led Indian file style into a drainy abyss by the loneliness is such a drag voice of Hugh Cornwell. Hot rats in every way. See, the Stranglers have this cold cream foundation of sound with Cornwell’s storm-trooper tones pushing up through the white mass like a sore.

He’s the street corner spiv with a suitcase, whispering in your ear “I’ve got something ‘ere that might interest you” – viz ‘Peaches’, a package holiday song. But what really sets them apart from the new rave bands is Dave Greenfield’s slicing keyboard work – ‘Sometimes’, ‘Goodbye Toulouse’ with its Pink Floyd ‘Welcome To The Machine’ fade out and ‘Grip’, the single.

Hence a Velvet Underground with balls tag – an understatement. Bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, noted for his rodent-like stage movements, has a pretty fair voice himself, exemplified on ‘London Lady’, and Jet Black is a powerhouse drummer. Cornwell’s guitar work occasionally sounds like Television’s Tom Verlaine – on ‘Princess In The Streets’, the best track on an initial hearing, and ‘Hanging Around’ – and that can’t be bad.

Oh and the final ‘Down In The Sewer’ suite, always effective live, comes off well on vinyl. Criticism? Shoddy production on one or two tracks and the annoying inclusion of a ‘limited edition’ single, one side of which was recorded live at the Nashville. But apart from that +++++

(Record Mirror, 23/04/77)


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