The European female....
Released January 1983
After several quirky, "post-punk" and experimental albums, and a brief return to new wave-ish sounds on its predecessor, "La Folie", this unremarkable (for me) album had The Stranglers going full on electronic and European-influenced, with its programmed drums and synthesisers. The electric guitars are almost gone, replaced by primarily acoustic ones. You couldn't get much further away from those two initial, angry, punky albums that the band put out. This stuff, to me, does not even have the post punk appeal of the late seventies output. It is all rather dull, unprepossessing and, dare I say, pretentious. Also, what has happened to Hugh Cornwell's trademark sneery vocal?
1. Midnight Summer Dream
2. It's A Small World
3. Ships That Pass In The Night
4. The European Female (In Celebration Of)
5. Let's Tango In Paris
7. All Roads Lead To Rome
8. Blue Sister
9. Never Say Goodbye
"Midnight Summer Dream" is an Ultravox-ish, keyboard and programmed drums piece of (sort of) electronica, with rather pretentious-sounding spoken vocals. A few listens, however, and I find myself liking it more and more, oddly. "It's A Small World" also has that very early/mid-eighties electronic beat to it, with the group again sounding like a new romantic group, particularly in the vocal styling. It has an addictive Spanish guitar backing, though. "Ships That Pass In The Night" is another in the Ultravox vein, dominated by keyboards swirls and sonorous new romantic-style vocals. "The European Female (In Celebration Of)" is a laid-back, atmospheric and gently melodic number with, unsurprisingly, European (mainly Teutonic) overtones. Another Krautrock-esque number is up next, the morose "Let's Tango In Paris". "Paradise" has echoes of Tom Tom Club in its vocals and quirky rhythms.
"All Roads Lead To Rome" is appealing enough, I guess, but its synth lines are so Ultravox meets Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark it is untrue. It just doesn't sound like The Stranglers. That said, I quite like it! Similarly, "Blue Sister" has a strange appeal in its mysterious vocal and throbbing bass line. "Never Say Goodbye" also has an infectiousness about it but why Cornwell has to put on that affected new romantic voice is beyond me. To be fair, these last three tracks have been intriguing and beg further listens.
Overall, however, this album just doesn't really do it for me. Yes I can see that it has hidden depths, and I agree that it needs several listens to absorb it into one's bloodstream, and I also have no problem with The Stranglers attempting to diversify, stylistically. Personally, I just don't think they achieve it here and the album has a somewhat cold, detached, unengaged feel about it. Maybe that is the wintry, Kraftwerk-esque effect they were going for, so who am I to argue? Some people probably consider this one of their best works. After a few listens, I warmed to it, so maybe that is what is needed.