Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present


Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.

As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.

Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.

In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.

Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at adrianandrews1@sky.com.


Sunday, 15 November 2020

No Love in a Thousand Hacks - La Folie Reviewed

 

The knives were out for The Stranglers in late 1981 with the release of the band's sixth studio album. Some of the writing from these detractors is lazy and the attention to detail is somewhat lacking.... mistakes I have left in. For example NME's Barry Hoskyns goes to the trouble a penning a detailed panning of the album but then goes on to describe the title track as 'a sad lament sung in Cornwell’s most deadpan tone'.... leave the French to the French one perhaps Barry?

Presented below are reviews from three of the big four UK music weeklies, New Musical Express, Sounds and Record Mirror (any one have a review from Melody Maker?). Also are included is the review from the more teen orientated Smash Hits and one local press review lifted from Jet's press scrapbooks.

New Musical Express 
28th November 1981. 

The Stranglers La Folie (Liberty)


Black Black Always Black Black

THE STRANGLERS are the great exiles of rock ‘n’ roll, and for some time now they’ve been making records that are both dispirited and resentful. That said, I still believe there is a place in our hearts for their curious blend of pessimism and romanticism. At times the sheer sense of fatigue and indifference in their music is almost cathartic.

‘La Folie’ – ‘Madness’ – is an uncomfortable, frequently unhappy jumble of snarls and sighs, but it shows that the group’s obstinate despair can still manifest itself in both brash, hubristic satire and bleak, heart-sick melancholy. The startk but Byrne-ish and bellicose ‘Let Me Introduce You to the Family’ and the strident, self-reflective ‘Man They Love to Hate’ prove that the group can progress musically without compromising the essential misanthropy. For once, Dave Greenfield’s keyboards work up to something more than distractive asides.

Similarly, Cornwell’s strange compassion is newly illuminated by the moving ‘Tramp’, with lines such as: “A lost woman/long ago/Does she miss him, does he know/Does it matter in the snow” Here The Stranglers are actually making the effort to attract attractive music.

I should stress that these are exceptions. For one convincingly angry success like ‘Let Me Introduce You …’ there are three or four sombre and pretentious failures: the low-key, throwaway offensive – (almost a case of token male chauvinism!) – of ‘Non Stop’, a decidedly unbaroque vignette of a nun’s repressed love, a schoolboy prank like ‘Pin Up’, or the chronically weary ‘Ain’t Nothin’ To It’, The Stranglers at their stalest ever.

The most exasperating thing about the band is the lack of intelligence in the actual sound of the music. Where once Jean-Jacques Burnel’s grunting bass and Greenfield’s secondhand Manzarek organ doodling were hallmarks of punk bloody-mindedness, all four members now play as if they simply weren’t interested, Burnel’s bass sinks yet further back into the cleavage of Jet Black’s zero degree beat, and Cornwell’s guitar is all but lost in the fray. ‘La Folie’’s production is unnecessarily full – if one felt that they had even thought about economizing somewhere that might be forgivable.

The most impressive thing on the LP is ‘La Folie’ itself, sung in original Francais don’t you know. It’s high romanticism with a few strings – or at any rate mellotrons – attached, but there’s no swooning victory of love here. The song is a dirge about madness, a sad lament sung in Cornwell’s most deadpan tone with high, craning guitar, overbearing keyboards, and lines like “Et si parfois l’on fait des confessions/A qui les raconteur – meme le bon dieu nous a laisse tomber…. “ It is at such unhappy, religious moments as these that The Stranglers’ dark vision begins to shine.

Barry Hoskyns.



Sounds,a little later, was my musical bible of choice. They embraced punk early on when the others, especially the conservative, musical higher brow Melody Maker) were more cautious to lend their patronage too. Nevertheless, it seems that the long fingers of antipathy towards The Stranglers reached in to the editorial offices of each of our music journals in the early eighties. But for some time Sounds and Garry Bushell had been obsessed every move that Jimmy Pursey made and Oi was king!

Sounds 
2nd December 1981

THE STRANGLERS 'La Folie' (Liberty LBG 30342)**

Stranglehold on you

DOGGEDLY, ALMOST desparingly 'La Folie' is a Rock Album. You know the score, the old ideas being painfully redreged in an attempt to make them sound new. And all the way through ' La Folie' the
yearning honesty is the desire to split up. Yes, a death rock album…

The Stranglers were always too limited in scope and musical ideas to endure beyond the period when we were all Punky and willing to have a good crack with them, the big nasty men of Punk. They had a sort of Indian summer with 'The Raven' but 'La F' , like the awful 'Meninblack', reveals that the game is up. Strangled, you might say.

It's mostly Hugh this time. He's given free rein for his predictable, again rather limited Honours 'Degree (un)penetrating 'insight' to roam the corridors of Love. Disastrously, there are no tunes, not a one on show. So it's a kind of cornball solo album with JJ popping up only at the close for (the surprise!) a French love song. This is scarcely innovatory, never mind Hons Degree stuff .

It's embarrassingly predictable. Titles give it away, like 'Non Stop' about, Jesus, a nun - get it?), 'Pin Up' (about Marilyn - need I say more?) or 'It Only Takes Two To Tango' (about Nuclear Holocaust. I'm sure you're dying to hear that). The non-tunes of course rely on the subject-matter, which reflect glaringly on the above. Which makes for a very old stew indeed.

As if it matters still, of course, the Strangleresque view of love is (again) doggedly one-side. They even pen a paean to 'the tramp', literally a dosser. Surely this is taking love of men to its limit? Women? They are little toys and mostly to blame. It is a very cowardly base to start from. Not to say again revealing how in their senility the Strangers, like all good old fellows, are shown to be really very old-fashionedly English.

They stand for traditionalvalues - for rock as much as for the status quo in England. Indeed for this very reason they might still stand tall beside the likes of the conservative Exploited.

Needless to say 'La Folie' inits crippling weakness is shatteringly devoid of one element: love. I trust the next schedule met will reveal a suitably self-destruct concept at the end of the dream.

DAVE McCULLOUGH

Of all of these majors, Record Mirror were if not the most complementary, the least derogatory towards the album. Then again, Record Mirror were known allies of the band, ot at least some of their staffers were.



Record Mirror
21st November 1981

STRANGLERS: La Folie  (Liberty BG30342)
By Bob Flynn

DOWN IN the morgue, children, you can see the body of the Stranglers who were given more than
enough rope. Long dead, some say; but the fingers are twitching from under the shroud. They hold a new album and roses once again mix with the smell of blood.

The tell-tale human heart is their theme and an anatomical sketch of such adorns the inside cover. The
album vaguely deals with the victims and users of the stupidity the heart can cause. In other words  'La
Folie' is the madness of love, fine, off-centre idea from a band who after their first album lost their way and became a stagnant pool of self-important dirges. Under suspicion of fraud, 'La Folie" stretches out in search of those early shadows.

The track on the album 'Known Stop' brings the busy organ of Dave Greenfield and Burnell's one-tone voice in familiar Stranglers style but is spoilt by stupid lyrics, totally irrelevant and almost childish, in their nature of planned provocation. The same applies to 'Tramp' which scares heavily with superbly crafted music but, the man they love to hate yields the best lines on the album. "His father was a
fighter and he practised on his, son. His mother was just some furniture, who lost the will to run." Such is the between the eyes stuff I've missed. 

Side two twists and turns from the hackneyed subject of American and Russian chap who could destroy us all.

'Golden Brown' follows a line from 'Pictures' but the frenzied attack on the senses has eased into loose
temples with a gentle harpsicord lulling behind images of tanned dream girls travelling down the sand of the mind. Squeeze will listen with interest. Deep organ chords with the clean guitar and bass of the last,
and title track reminds me of 'Gulp', yes even Burnell's low french vocals destroy a complete resemblance. It just works, despite the pretentious use of French lyrics. This is a cool slice of European darkness. The sordid puritans feel and blackness of the heart coming across even if you don't get the words.

'La Folie' is at most, a reasonable follow up to ‘Rattus' and, at least a returned attention after the
muddy slumbers of their last album. The morgue looks almost inviting. + + +



Finally, something positive, if indeed not in-depth from Pete Silverton of Smash Hits.


Smash Hits 
26th November 1981 

THE STRANGLERS: La Folie (Liberty) 

An unexpected pleasure. The band have dropped their bully boy tone and replaced it with a delicacy and lightness of touch that I thought I'd never hear from the hectoring meninblack. The title, which refers to the whole madness of human life, is a strict guide to the record's contents -love, the family and the mental warps they can produce. For once, a sharp intelligence has been wrapped around the Stranglers' loudly held opinions.
(8 out of 10) 



Pete Silverton

Lastly, the best I have found.... a glowing review from that bastion of musical good taste.... The Cumberland Evening News and Star. Let's hope Paul got a freebie copy for this one!

Cumberland Evening News and Star 
Carlisle 

6th February 1982 

Non Stop Classic 

THE STRANGLERS: La Folie (Liberty). 

From the opening Farfisa beat of Non Stop to the final notes of the title track, La Folie is a classic.

And it’s only February.

The Stranglers have found you don’t need to throw everything plus the kitchen sink into an arrangement to make effective statements.

There’s an economy of style I first noticed on Duchess and the mood is closer to solo Lou Reed at times to the Doors, who were always a strong influence.

If you love Golden Brown, the hit single, that recalls Dave Brubeck and Gerry Marsden in one shot, then you’ll be pleased to hear that every track is equally matchless.

I noted in particular how Hugh Cornwell’s solo sneaks up from behind and makes use of a guitar tone most musicaians would dismiss as old fashioned. Dave Greenfield is, of course, superb on keyboards, but the power of the Stranglers would not be the same without Jean-Jacques Burnel and Jet Black. I’ve a feeling that only The Jam will stand any chance of topping this disc before next January.

Paul N.

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