Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The Stranglers - Dreamtime (1986)

You'll always reap what you sow....

  

Released October 1986

By 1986, The Stranglers' punk and post-punk days were long gone. Their previous album, the most impressive "Aural Sculpture", from 1984, had seen them become almost a completely different band from anything that had been before. This little-mentioned album continues in the same vein - keyboard and drums-driven tuneful rock/pop but lyrically sometimes cynical material. While it was released in the middle of the eighties it was not blighted by synthesisers in the way that a lot of music from this period was. Dave Greenfield's keyboards were used as effectively as they always had been.

It is actually a pretty good album but it has been summarily dismissed over the years with cliché-ridden statements about its being a sad postscript from a once-great band and the like from those who expect every Stranglers album to sound like "Rattus Norvegicus". This is a shame because there are hidden depths to this album and it stands up to most of 1986's other material, let's be honest.

TRACK LISTING

1. Always The Sun
2. Dreamtime
3. Was It You?
4. You'll Always Reap What You Sow
5. Ghost Train
6. Nice In Nice
7. Big In America
8. Shakin' Like A Leaf
9. Mayan Skies
10. Too Precious                                          

"Always The Sun" is, for me, one of The Stranglers' best ever singles - a catchy, atmospheric mix of New Romantic keyboards and eighties-style vocals that displays a grandiose pop sensibility that never left them. "Dreamtime" is another appealing mid-pace number, with a very mid-eighties ambience to it, while "Was It You?" has Hugh Cornwell sounding just like eighties-era Joey Ramone, but backed by some brass riffs. It has a few punky throwbacks about it.

"You'll Always Reap What You Sow" has some rock 'n' roll-style guitar parts, some European keyboards and a pounding, deep drum beat. It has a dignified sort of grace to it and Cornwell's vocal carries considerable pathos. "Ghost Train" is an upbeat but vaguely post-punky number that has considerable appeal. Cornwell's vocal is delivered in that semi-spoken, slightly menacing way.


"Nice In Nice" has a riffy intro and a vague Stonesy feel to it. I'm thinking of "Stupid Girl". The vocal is Doors-esque too. "Big In America" has a feel of Lou Reed to it. It is another lively and infectious song, though, featuring some excellent saxophone. "Shakin' Like A Leaf" is one of those typical Doors-influenced, keyboard-driven Stranglers numbers, this time with a bit of brass jazz backing as well. "Mayan Skies" has an air of The Human League in its melody, keyboard backing and vocals. Again, the brass is used nicely. "Too Precious" is gently melodic and subtle in its instrumentation. A lovely bass line prevails throughout.

This album should not be dismissed out of hand. Personally, I much prefer it to "Feline" and, actually,  there are far more subtleties lurking beneath the surface here than on the punk albums.

B-

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