The background of this blog is that I've got over 900 seven inch singles. I haven't listened to many of them for ages - so I thought every now and then I'd listen to some at random and see what I think. Then I'd post my thoughts online for all and sundry to see.
'Cos I am a bit of a geek, I've got my record collection listed in a database so it's been easy to allocate all the singles a random number and that's the order I'm going to listen to them in!
Monday, 2 March 2015
7 inch singles collection: The Stranglers - Golden Brown
So, were The Stranglers punk, or not? Certainly they were initially
lumped in with that scene despite thembeing older, and less angry than many of
their contemporaries. They had the sneering attitude all right, but they also
had something else that set them apart from the others. Dave Greenfield’s organ
playing is part of this in a landscape that is normally harsh and often
discordant guitars it brings an other-worldy patina to Stranglers records. Beyond
this, though, there’s a feeling in their records that they’re men playing at
being boys, rather than boys playing at being men like most punk bands. Their
maturity comes to the fore quite soon in their career, and songs like Peaches
and Grip, (with their “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” style), disappear for more
complex pieces, both lyrically and musically. Not that I’m saying that the rest
of the punk upper echelons weren’t literate and intelligent, many were as we
will find out later, it’s just that they kept to the basic thrash it out sound
explosion for much longer than The Stranglers did.
All of which leads me to Golden Brown – for a few years The
Stranglers singles had been not reaching the higher chart places of their
earlier material, then suddenly this record appeared and managed to earn them
their highest ever chart placing (a number 2 no less). It’s unusual time signature (almost but not quite waltz time) rises and falls,
it catches your hand as it waltzes pass and sends you spinning into the song.
It feels simultaneously both pretty and subversive – we now know that it’s probably
about Heroin, but that doesn’t detract from the record in any way, because the
lyrics are non-specific enough for it actually to be about anything you want,
some dusky exotic maiden or a new colour of non-drip gloss from Dulux. Take
your pick, and let the music take you on a heady magic carpet ride.
Tennis and The Stranglers seem to be an unlikely
combination, but they are brought together on Love-30. This is a largely
instrumental track that’s full of echo and effect like backwards guitars. The
drums provide the most consistent sound, emphasised by the occasional bass
twang. Every now and then there’s the sound of a tennis ball being hit, and “out”
being called. The pace is quite languid, and none of the frenetic energy that you
would normal associate with a tennis match. In truth Love-30 is an inconsequential
bit of noise that doesn’t last long enough to be annoying.
So were The Stranglers punk? Probably not, but they were
certainly canny enough to allow themselves to flow with that particular stream
for their advantage.