The Stranglers - Hugh Cornwell era albums poll

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As far as I can see, there's been a couple of Stranglers threads & polls but not many, and this one has never been done. I'm interested: what's your favourite album from the Hugh-fronted Stranglers?

I thought it was unfair to do a full poll. I do think three of the later ones are great: About Time, Norfolk Coast and Suite XVI; Giants is pretty good too, In The Night is fine, other two... not really; but I can't imagine anyone would vote for a post-Hugh album.

My personal choice: used to be The Raven but over the past years I've found myself increasingly drawn towards Feline, which gets my vote.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Black and White 6
La folie 5
Feline 3
Rattus Norvegicus 3
The Raven 2
Dreamtime 2
The Gospel According to the MenInBlack 1
No More Heroes 1
Aural Sculpture 1
10 0


Valentijn, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 11:48 (three months ago) Permalink

Black + White easily.

Scottish Country Twerking (Tom D.), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 13:23 (three months ago) Permalink

This was The Raven for many years but nowadays it's undoubtedly La Folie. I think when most people think of The Stranglers, they think of the very early stuff - 'No More Heroes', 'Peaches' etc. However, they started to move away from that on Black and White and from that point up until and including Feline they were an interesting, leftfield prog-pop band. They became more straightforward and poppy on Aural Sculpture, but those last three Hugh era albums are still recognisably Stranglers.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 13:31 (three months ago) Permalink

I don't have a horse in this race but I just wanted to note in passing that Jet Black celebrated his 80th birthday the other day. Happy birthday Jet.

the word dog doesn't bark (anagram), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 13:34 (three months ago) Permalink

I don't think I could rank them, aside from that La Folie is top, 10 is bottom (their worst album by a considerable distance - a lack of good material and Roy Thomas Baker was a bad fit for the band) and I have a preference for the first 7, and I really, really like Dreamtime.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 13:36 (three months ago) Permalink

I don't have a horse in this race but I just wanted to note in passing that Jet Black celebrated his 80th birthday the other day. Happy birthday Jet.

― the word dog doesn't bark (anagram), Tuesday, August 28, 2018 1:34 PM (one minute ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Yeah! Although he had to eventually retire from live performances in 2012 or thereabouts as his health wasn't up to it. Even then the shows still had a lot of energy to 'em.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 13:39 (three months ago) Permalink

Completely agree with you there Turrican: a vote for 10 is the only one I couldn't understand here.
Dreamtime is lovely, album closer Too Precious is one of my favourite songs of theirs.

Valentijn, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 13:48 (three months ago) Permalink

I only know (and love) Rattus so I'm interested to see the results of this poll, always wanted to dive a little deeper into this band

Paul Ponzi, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 14:06 (three months ago) Permalink

I really enjoy Hugh Cornwell's solo work as well, moreso than the post-Hugh Stranglers, although Norfolk Coast and Suite XVI are decent.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 14:07 (three months ago) Permalink

Interesting to hear - I don't know Cornwell solo at all. I did once hear an album that he had made available as a free download & it didn't convince me, but I also didn't give it much time. Maybe I should revisit it.

As I wrote in my initial poll post, I do think About Time, Norfolk Coast and Suite XVI are great. Just listen to 'Sinister' from About Time - pretty amazing if you ask me. The music on Norfolk Coast goes back to their classic days. Suite XVI is the first with Baz as a singer, I think he's doing an excellent job - great frontman too. I've seen the band live only once and that was with Baz, they were brilliant.

Valentijn, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 14:24 (three months ago) Permalink

Oh boy, so much goodness here. I haven't listened to the albums that much since I put the "UA Singles" box and the "Here And There" Epic singles comp on my phone. Their b-sides were just as good and occasionally better than their a-sides.

I break up these albums in pairs:
Rattus Norvegicus / No More Heroes - pure punk
Black and White / The Raven - transitional, moving away from punk and becoming more post-punk experimental
The Gospel According to the MenInBlack / La Folie - post-punk and wonderfully weird
Feline / Aural Sculpture - jettisoned the weirdness and embraced elements of pop
Dreamtime / 10 - over-produced albeit some gems

I listened to "Dreamtime" not long ago and found it far less enjoyable than back in the day. "The Gospel" is still a total WTF experience. My introduction to the band was "Aural Sculpture", which I still adore, but at this late date I'd have to go with "La Folie" as I prefer the sheer oddness of it.

My favorite solo Hugh album is "Guilty". I used to rep for "Wolf" but the last time I heard it the 80s sheen of it all put me off. "Hi Fi" is good as well but the more recent albums felt too predictable.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 15:28 (three months ago) Permalink

I'm a bit surprised by the "La Folie" love, or amour, just glancing over the song titles, I can hardly remember any of them and some that I do I don't really want to remember tbh.

Scottish Country Twerking (Tom D.), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:35 (three months ago) Permalink

Interesting to hear - I don't know Cornwell solo at all. I did once hear an album that he had made available as a free download & it didn't convince me, but I also didn't give it much time. Maybe I should revisit it.

I assume you're talking about Hooverdam and it's probably a bad introduction to his solo work for a couple of reasons, but mostly that I dislike the production. The White Stripes may have got great results from working at Toe Rag, but the recording approach ruins Hugh's album, IMO.

As a starting point for Hugh's solo stuff, try Guilty (produced by Laurie Latham) which is his finest solo set (delighted that McBoing-Boing agrees!), or Totem and Taboo, which he recorded with Steve Albini.

Hi Fi and Beyond Elysian Fields are both worth a listen too, the latter being a more "folky" acoustic-led album produced by Tony Visconti.

Wolf has some great songs, but the production on it has aged terribly.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 18:13 (three months ago) Permalink

As I wrote in my initial poll post, I do think About Time, Norfolk Coast and Suite XVI are great. Just listen to 'Sinister' from About Time - pretty amazing if you ask me.

About Time is the best album that they made in their so-called "wilderness" years, yeah (the Roberts/Ellis/Burnel/Greenfield/Black line-up) ...

None of the post-Hugh stuff compares to the original line-up though, IMO.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 18:16 (three months ago) Permalink

Black And White in a heartbeat, Dalek Prog Punk 4ever.

MaresNest, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 18:54 (three months ago) Permalink

Hehehehe I assume you're thinking about 'Curfew' when you say that. Great song - if I was gonna put together a compilation of my favourite album tracks, that'd be on there.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Tuesday, 28 August 2018 19:16 (three months ago) Permalink

Thanks for the Cornwell solo guide, I'll look into it (I quite often find myself overall agreeing with you, also with the Manics & R.E.M.).
But I would rate some post-Hugh albums higher than some pre-Hugh's. I think my rough ranking of the moment might be like this:

Feline
The Raven
La folie
Black and White
Rattus Norvegicus
Suite XVI
About Time
Dreamtime
Norfolk Coast
Aural Sculpture
Giants
The Gospel According to the MenInBlack
No More Heroes
Stranglers In The Night
10
Written in Red
Coup de Grace

This might really change daily. It's probably sacrilege to place No More Heroes relatively low, but in a meagre attempt at defense, I do think every album up until that one is really good.
And I can actually also enjoy those I placed at the bottom, there's some good songs on those too.

Funny thing about Black and White: I had it on vinyl first and for years I always played the 'black side' before the 'white side', following the order of words in the title and also thinking that Curfew sounded like an excellent album opener, Toiler on the Sea an amazing closer. I got it on CD later and found that the sides were switched. This 'real' order still sounds odd to me.

Valentijn, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 20:21 (three months ago) Permalink

I think the album plays well both "black side first" and "white side first" ... it must have been double weird when you realised they'd swapped 'Sweden (All Quiet On The Eastern Front)' and 'Hey! (Rise of the Robots)' on the tracklisting of the CD!

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Wednesday, 29 August 2018 13:31 (three months ago) Permalink

I maybe need to relisten to Gospel because that's the only one pre-10 that I never got into. I'd probably rank all the 70s albums over the 80s albums, but I don't mind the glossier sound on e.g. Dreamtime, still works for me.

Colonel Poo, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 13:42 (three months ago) Permalink

"Gospel" is just a total drug-inspired outlier. It's gotten better over time but it's still my least-favorite UA album. Good bits are "Just Like Nothing On Earth", "Second Coming", "Two Sunspots" and "Thrown Away". The rest sort of blurs in my mind.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Wednesday, 29 August 2018 15:19 (three months ago) Permalink

It took a while for me to get into The Gospel According to the Meninblack, but it clicked with me eventually when I stopped seeing it as a series of songs and started seeing it more as mood music/a production exercise. It's best listened to on headphones because of the overall sound/mix etc. That's not to say there aren't songs on there - the Dave Greenfield sung 'Four Horsemen' is one of my favourites - but quite a fair bit of the album relies on mood and "atmosphere" ... 'Manna Machine' isn't too far away from Kid A type shit, actually.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Wednesday, 29 August 2018 20:35 (three months ago) Permalink

I also found The Gospel According to the Meninblack a bit hard to get into & agree it puts the emphasis on atmosphere. It's actually really great at that, but as it does its thing it's lacking in distinguished highlights or singles to leave a big impression. 'Four Horsemen' and 'Hallow to our Men' are my favourites on the album.
I think I read (probably just Wikipedia) that it's Hugh Cornwell's favourite.

Listening to 'In the Night' now, it's the one I know least well, it surprises me at the moment - while some songs aren't all that good, I find that there's quite a lot of pretty great stuff on it. In fact, I may even want to bump it up two spots in my ranking.

Valentijn, Thursday, 30 August 2018 11:41 (three months ago) Permalink

The tracks on B&W are really quite independent of each other and some of them are pretty unusual, alien, cinematic, that's the kind of record that makes an impression on a young mind, a bit like Sgt Pepper or Dark Side of the Moon in a funny way.

Even the cassette version that I grew up with that had Mean To Me included didn't throw the record off.

MaresNest, Thursday, 30 August 2018 11:57 (three months ago) Permalink

I also found The Gospel According to the Meninblack a bit hard to get into & agree it puts the emphasis on atmosphere. It's actually really great at that, but as it does its thing it's lacking in distinguished highlights or singles to leave a big impression.

Hmm. I think the record sticks out like a sore thumb in their 1977-1982 period - they'd never spent that much money or time on an album before, and quite possibly since. As for highlights: 'Waltzinblack' is actually (perversely) one of their better known tracks, and 'Thrown Away' has been a live staple for ages. I agree that it's their least accessible album - some say that 'Who Wants the World?' should have been on there, but I can't imagine quite where it would fit.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 30 August 2018 18:57 (three months ago) Permalink

Listening to 'In the Night' now, it's the one I know least well, it surprises me at the moment - while some songs aren't all that good, I find that there's quite a lot of pretty great stuff on it. In fact, I may even want to bump it up two spots in my ranking.

I like 'Heaven or Hell', 'Laughing at the Rain' and 'Time to Die', and 'Sugar Bullets' isn't too bad, but overall I don't rate it. The production particularly has aged poorly and the album sounds like it was made on the cheap - Jet Black had been using drum machines for ages, but on In The Night a lot of the bass is MIDI. This normally wouldn't be a problem - but firstly, it sounds terrible, and secondly, when you have a rhythm section like Black and Burnel why would anyone want to do that, and when you have a keyboardist like Greenfield, why would you want to sequence them?

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 30 August 2018 19:04 (three months ago) Permalink

(at least Written In Red sounds like a contemporary record)

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 30 August 2018 19:05 (three months ago) Permalink

Hmmm the production on In The Night certainly isn't the best - it's similar to 10 in places & that's not a good thing, but overall I'm not too distracted by it myself and there's more good songs on In The Night than on 10. Apart from those you mention, I'd also add 'Southern Mountains', 'Leave It to the Dogs' and especially 'Grand Canyon'.

Valentijn, Thursday, 30 August 2018 20:17 (three months ago) Permalink

Listening to No More Heroes now and, of course, I'm feeling like a complete idiot for placing it so low in my ranking. It's smashing stuff - I just always felt that whatever they're doing on that album, they did even better on either the preceding Rattus Norvegicus or the subsequent Black + White.

I guess that with my ranking, the exact order of everything from Dreamtime to In The Night really depends on which album I'm listening to at the moment/have listened to most recently...

Valentijn, Friday, 31 August 2018 06:30 (three months ago) Permalink

I think 10 is far louder and over the top production-wise compared to In The Night. 'Grand Canyon' isn't a favourite of mine, but I don't mind the other two.

Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes were both written over the same period of time and were pretty much - aside from a couple of tracks on the latter - all recorded at the same recording sessions. The first two albums were the backlog of material that made up their live sets around the time they got signed - Black and White was the first time they had to write an album since being signed.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Friday, 31 August 2018 13:00 (three months ago) Permalink

On a bit of a Hugh solo binge at the moment - 'Cadiz' surely must rank as one of the finest songs he's ever written.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Monday, 3 September 2018 18:29 (three months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Thursday, 20 September 2018 00:01 (two months ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Friday, 21 September 2018 00:01 (two months ago) Permalink

Cool results. The Raven got less votes than I'd have thought it would get/hoped for/think it deserves, but it's nice to see that all 9 good albums got voted for at least once.

Valentijn, Friday, 21 September 2018 06:50 (two months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

In hindsight, perhaps they should have split up after Dreamtime - Hugh's book (Song by Song) makes the making of 10 sound like an awful experience.

Hugh has a new album out called Monster and so far I'm not taken with it aside from a couple of songs.

Le Baton Rose (Turrican), Thursday, 11 October 2018 19:58 (two months ago) Permalink


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