Monday, July 15, 2013

The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus

Opening with swells of Doors-like organ, prominent, edgy bass, a driving beat and a first line of "some day I'm gonna smack your face", you immediately discover what the Stranglers are all about. Keyboard driven punk rock (very much an anomaly at the time) with misogynist lyrics, but still damn catchy. At the time I assumed that the sexism was a punk-rock persona but I have been told that the guys really are like that - not that I could say for sure myself. In any case, they still made some amazing music!

Dave Greenfield is an exceptional keyboardist and wasn't afraid to show it, even during the early punk days, when such proficiency was looked down upon, especially on keyboards. Jean-Jacques Burnel was the sex symbol of the band (the rest were, frankly, fairly ugly and even sported - another punk faux-pas - facial hair!) and the man behind the melodic bass and a sound that would influence many bassists to come. Hugh Cornwell most often sang lead (Burnel would sometimes, as well) and played a sharp, biting Telecaster guitar - he was not the virtuoso that Greenfield is and relied more on simple, noisy lines. Jet Black (Brian Duffy) drumming was always solid and fitting for the song, but nothing flashy.

Lyrically, they did manage to inject humor along with their misogynistic ways (which some say was parody) with a song about Jesus' crucifixion called "Hanging Around" and "Down in the Sewer" telling the tale of a young man who has descended underground to make love to sewer rats! The arrangements are all well thought-out, with plenty of interesting musical and melodic tidbits and instrumental interaction.

This just goes to show that 70's punk could be any number of things and way more of an attitude than a formula - something that is sadly missing from most of today's "punk rock" bands. This is truly a superior record and by far my fave from the group.