Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The Stranglers - La Folie (1981)


  

Released November 1981

Following on from three increasingly more experimental albums in "Black And White", "The Raven" and the slightly bizarre "(The Gospel According To) The Meninblack", The Stranglers' star had been waning. The punk coat-tails that they had grabbed on to and become incredibly successful had waned itself, as had new wave. New romantic, post punk and electric synth-pop was on the rise. The band had, in their last album, pre-empted some of that stuff, but not that anyone noticed. Here, they decided to go back to a commercially-appealing new wave style of sound. More punchy and tight and certainly far more accessible than the previous offering. It also yielded their biggest chart hit.

It was also probably the last album they released while their music was "relevant", so to speak. By the time of their next album, in 1983, The Clash and The Jam were no more, The Sex Pistols were long gone. The Ramones carried on but as an affectionately-viewed nostalgia act. To be fair, The Stranglers had started to change their style back in 1978. This was a last attempt to look back at a genre that was only three years or so old.

TRACK LISTING

1. Non Stop
2. Everybody Loves You When You're Dead
3. Tramp
4. Let Me Introduce You To The Family
5. Ain't Nothin' To It
6. The Man They Love To Hate
7. Pin Up
8. It Only Takes Two To Tango
9. Golden Brown
10. How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day
11. La Folie                                

"Non Stop" was apparently titled "Non Stop Nun", but appeared as just "Non Stop"on the cover. It has a catchy organ and guitar riff back and sounds like a bit of a throwback to the band's first two "punk" albums, apart from Hugh Cornwell's less aggressive vocal. The same can be said of the pumping organ and drum beat of "Everybody Loves You When You're Dead". "Tramp" is a lively number with hints of early Joe Jackson and The Police. "Let Me Introduce You To The Family" also has a big Police influence, for me. It sounds like one of those frantic Andy Summers songs.

"Ain't Nothin' To It" is a very 1977-78 style upbeat number, like The Stranglers as they hadn't really been heard since 1978. "The Man They Love To Hate" is also a fast-paced rocky number with a pounding drumbeat, funky organ breaks and a mysterious vocal. Again, I have to reiterate that these songs bring to mind some of The Police's album tracks so much. Something about the drum sound and the pace of them. "Pin Up" sees the old cynical view of femalekind return, slightly. It is all a bit polite, though, and is a bit like Kraftwerk's "The Model", lyrically.


"It Only Takes Two To Tango" is possibly the album's worst track. Its vocal harmonies are clumsy, to say the least. It is not a great track, let's be honest.

"Golden Brown" was a strange one. It became a Radio Two staple. Very punk. Not. It was melodic, gentle and classically-influenced, nothing like anything they had done before. It brought them a new audience. It was also about drugs. Supposedly. I've never got that myself. Same goes for "Mr. Tambourine Man". Either way, it definitely had something about it, along with an absolute killer grandiose-sounding keyboard riff. I remember at the time, even girls I knew who didn't like punk music at all liked this. That sort of annoyed me. They didn't buy "Something Better Change" or "Peaches", did they?

"How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day" is a Talking Heads-esque oddball, staccato groove. It is tracks like this that mean that this album is not just a return to the sound of fours years earlier (actually none of it is, really, just some hints of it are). The title track, "La Folie" is a true Stranglers unique song - bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel grumbling away, sometimes a bit tunelessly, in French over a deep, sombre backing.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable, energetic album. It is not just tub-thumping, though The songs are quite clever and the vocal delivery much more understated than four years earlier. Good album.

B

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