Album Review by Adam Foster
There is an odd sound on track 2 of this new compilation. It’s the sound of barrels being scraped. It recurs consistently throughout this lame and pointless collection.
It is some twenty years since The Stranglers last released a decent original album (THE RAVEN). In the intervening period, there have been almost as many compilations released. From the obvious – SINGLES, BEST OF, PEACHES – to the slightly odd – REMIXES, THE COLLECTION, HITS & HEROES. This is, by some margin, the worst of the bunch.
Some may remember BRING ON THE NUBILES: a classic, shocking Stranglers song that graced NO MORE HEROES – a classic album. Later, and brilliantly, this obscene ditty was turned into a superb lounge version (COCKTAIL NUBILES), sung with aplomb like the native rat packer he wasn’t by Hugh Cornwell. Here, we are treated to seven minutes – count them – of a clearly confused Cornwell struggling to remember the lyrics while a bored Dave Greenfield struggles to accompany him. Cornwell consistently stops and asks the engineers for the next line or verse. It’s a humiliating spectacle, and probably the low point of the Stranglers recording career. It is rare, at least; but rarity does not give it value.
Elsewhere, there are reminders of what a great band the Stranglers were. Versions of WALK ON BY, NO MORE HEROES and PEACHES (all Radio Edits), a demo of TOMORROW WAS THE HEREAFTER, and foreign language versions of SWEDEN (in Swedish) and DON’T BRING HARRY (in French) are fantastic. But they have all appeared elsewhere, and can hardly be counted ‘rare’. Indeed, many of them appear either on ‘The Collection’ or on the ‘Rarities’ disk of the ‘Hits & Heroes’ double CD from 1999. Sadly, the 1999 disc included two of the least compiled tracks (the excellent 12” versions of BEAR CAGE and SHAH-SHAH-A-GO-GO), and these are dropped here.
They have been dropped in favour of a run-out of lame tracks which perfectly depict the lack of direction of post-‘Raven’ Stranglers – and the even greater lack of direction of the post-Cornwell era. The last seven tracks here (or eight, if you go by the track listing) are bland and soulless, weak and empty. In particular, MY YOUNG DREAMS is dreadful: one of many tracks that are “rarities” only because they failed to make the light of day.
If you want a Stranglers Rarities album, try and get the double CD version of HITS & HEROES. All the best tracks from this collection are there, along with a host of excellent (and real) rarities. Otherwise, save your money. This is definitely one to miss.