The Stranglers – Aural Sculpture (1984): Review

stranglers

Produced by Laurie Latham and The Stranglers
Label – Epic

The Stranglers career continues to mystify most fans. During the late 70s they could comfortably claim to be one of the leading Punk/New wave acts in the UK, rivaling The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam or The Damned in both artistic and commercial success. Their first four studio albums (“Rattus Norvegicus”, “No More Heroes”, “Black And White”, and “The Raven”), stand up in quality with any of the generically similar releases from the era. They also had the punk notoriety during that period required for headline writers. Guitarist Hugh Cornwell had been jailed for Heroin possession, bass player Jean Jacques Burnel and drummer Jet Black had been jailed for causing a riot at a French concert, and they had reportedly kidnapped a music journalist for giving them a bad review.

stranglers1

As Cornwell came off Heroin it seemed his mood mellowed, and the band took the drastic step of writing and recording pop songs. The fans and music press found it difficult to adapt, and much of their 80s material was either bypassed or ridiculed. Their previous release “Feline” had been a stinker, and I firmly believe that most of the fans that remained loyal to the band half expected the same moody pop, synth driven, drum machined droll. “Aural Sculpture” is a record of its time. Yes it is perfectly polished; yes it has obligatory, unnecessary horn additions; yes there is an overuse of rhythm machines.

The marked difference between this album and “Feline” is that there is (particularly on side 1) some really decent songs. The singles are all good (“Skin Deep”, “Let Me Down Easy”, and “No Mercy”) and there are at least 3 strong album tracks (“Ice Queen”, “North Winds” and “Laughing”). There are a couple of duffers with the nonsensical “Punch And Judy” and the childish “Mad Hatter”, but overall there is enough to keep one entertained for 40 minutes.

In retrospect, if this album had been released by a debut pop act it would have been received with the respect it deserved, but alas, The Stranglers had a dirty history and that’s what fans and critics yearned for.

7/10

Track Listing
1.”Ice Queen” – 4:01
2.”Skin Deep” – 3:53
3.”Let Me Down Easy” – 4:10
4.”No Mercy” – 3:38
5.”North Winds” – 4:03
6.”Uptown” – 2:57
7.”Punch & Judy” – 3:46
8.”Spain” – 4:13
9.”Laughing” – 4:12
10.”Souls” – 2:41
11.”Mad Hatter” – 4:00

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3 responses to “The Stranglers – Aural Sculpture (1984): Review

  1. THIS IS A TRULY FABULOUS RECORD, FROM THE FIRST DATE I OWNED IT TO THIS VERY DAY, COMPLETELY PLAYABLE, LISTENABLE, LOVABLE, A JEWEL IN THE STRANGLERS’ CROWN, DISCUSS……

  2. I think that side1 is amongst the best they ever released. It tails off a bit 2nd half, but I think Hugh Cornwall’s move towards a more mainstream output was correct even though from what I gather the rest of the band weren’t quite in unison.

    • You’re right about the Stranglers entering Never work again Mode.

      The sound of disintegration is bitter sweet. And it took the Stranglers mark II such a long time to shake Hugh off.

      That they came back so strong and sounding more 70’s than 80’s means that Hugh was taking them into the lounge when they truly belong in to coal house.

      Nice memories Hackskeptic

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