Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meninblack Part 2

All this twee rock and dance music just pushes me to listen to edgier, harder music that truly exhibits angst, anger and hunger. The first three Stranglers albums do this with bells on and the fact they were lambasted as misogynists, racists etc. etc. was ample proof that they riled the British music press with their talent, lack of interest in punk pigeon-holing and general lack of respect for the journalists themselves.

Bass player JJ Burnel got into some fisticuffs with NME journalists and fellow musicians, but a lot of British rockers of that era — Siouxsie and Paul Weller included — made violent overtures about music hacks. The Stranglers just delivered on the threats and then wound things up more by pushing all the taboos they could in the press’s face. NME regarded the band as not punk enough because they were older, had members with long hair and featured a keyboard player. But the band weren't trying to be punk, they just happened to be around at the same time as the budding genre and had a dark, aggressive sound that resonated with punk rockers. 

Regardless, the first three Stranglers records are a great exercise in gifted musicianship, a non guitar hero approach to rock — Burnel and Cornwell shared lead vocals — and a musical style that couldn’t be put in a neat, punk box. The Raven, their fourth, is a pretty neat affair too, although showing more of a pop leaning. Some of the tracks from all these albums are timeless, and sound as forward looking and modern as much of the rock coming out now.

The combination of JJ Burnel’s bass and Dave Greenfield’s unbelievable, baroque tinged keyboard playing and synth work made their music intricate, aggressive and otherworldly all at one. They sounded like the Doors colliding with Kraftwerk and The Flamin’ Groovies. I grew up on those albums and I go back to them often for ideas and inspiration, now, more than ever. Their music proves that you can be angry, pissed off and intelligent all at once and that you don’t have to cave at the feet of an elite world view that’s fascist at one extreme and overly politically correct at the other, because there are no parameters in self-politics or good music. There are in dogma and crap music.


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