The Stranglers - Stranglers IV (Rattus Norvegicus) - Review
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critics' view

At the time of release in April ’77 The Stranglers were: Hugh Cornwell (27, guitar, vocals); Jean-Jacques Burnel (25, bass, vocals); Dave Greenfield (28, keyboards, backing vocals) and Jet Black (38, drums). This lot were far more accomplished than yer average spotty oiks who were breaking through in the burgeoning punk scene, but they had the aggression, they had the attitude, and, most importantly, they had the songs. In their name, accomplished was not a dirty word. Their gruff brand of punk was uniquely characterized by the phat and meaty bass of JJ, the alpha-male cocksure vocal delivery of Hugh and the lively range of Dave’s keyboards.

The quality is apparent from the off on “Sometimes” which reinvents the old 60s garage-organ sound in the here and now, with a threatening undertone and the notification that some n’er do well is going to get a smack in the face. The Stranglers boys are in town. The album’s one and only miss-step occurs on side 1 when JJ steps up to the mic for “Princess on the Streets” which is an unwelcome reminder that they have come from blues rock roots. I can imagine some listeners in ’77 opining “get with the programme ya feckers”. Thankfully, this is followed by “Hanging Around” and normal service is resumed as they slag off the wasters of the pub-scene that birthed them. “Peaches” is next and rockets the group mightily into legends territory with one of the dirtiest, raunchiest grooves of the decade. “Liberation for women, that’s what I preach” Yeah, right Hugh!

The trials and tribulations of a dirt-poor rock n roll life are laid out on “(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)”, the single which had announced the band’s arrival a few months earlier. Again, standing apart from contemporaries, the track is memorable for introducing saxophone to punk, and features Eric Clarke, a Welsh coal miner. Eric was introduced by manager Dai Davies. He quite literally came off a shift down the mine, got on a train, came to the studio, blew a few notes, and went back down the mine the next day. A famous guy once sang “a working class hero is something to be”. Right here, Eric walks the walk and The Stranglers talk the talk.

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