Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Moo Moo Moo (The Stranglers - No More Heroes)

I've gotten a bit tired of new music as of late – this isn't meant as a gripe about what's being overdone at the moment, it's just that it gets a little exhausting to dig through music blogs and magazines, feeling like a scenester and giving a damn about what's new (I know, this sounds about as arrogant as Beyonce claiming she's “tired of being sexy,” but whatever, I'm tired). So I'm going to be selfish by taking a break and giving mention to a couple of my favorite older records, which I've yet to read much about or write on up until this point. The one thing that bums me out about time progressing in a forward motion is that, in the world of media, most forms of entertainment only get talked about immediately before and after their release dates. But with all that's been put out there in the last century? Good God, that's a lot to forget about! So I'll propose that we find a method of time travel, and until that's done, opt to slow down a bit and remember what's existed and been tossed aside. The next three days will be about what's magical underneath all the rust its gathered.

The Stranglers – No More Heroes

I first learned of the Stranglers by digging through my mom's records sometime during high school and wondering who the hell those Stranglers were, seeing as a good chunk of her record collection came from their catalogue. Second album No More Heroes was missing from her lot, but her collection acted as a gateway to my discovery of this album, so now's the time when I say “thanks, Mom” and suggest that anyone reading this ought to dig through your parents' records in case there's something great hiding there. From what I understand, this record's only available as a European import, which is a real shame, as it's the Stranglers album I responded to more instantly than any other; I imagine a lot of people who write off the Stranglers as a shit band because of “Always the Sun,” or whatever sap they released in the mid-1980s, would unexpectedly accept them with a new sense of appreciation if they'd heard No More Heroes. Released in 1977, this is probably the most punk album the Stranglers have got, the next closest thing being Rattus Norvegicus, and if you're a fan of Hugh Cornwell's gruff growl, as used on songs like “Peaches” and “Nice 'N' Sleazy,” this album's full of it.

Overall, this record's quality yet somehow manages to incorporate both a boatload of cheesy sci-fi keyboard and a requisite level of sleaze (i.e. “Bring on the Nubiles,” which boasts lines like “I want to love you like your dad,” “I've got to lick your little puss and nail it to the floor,” and “I'm high beneath my zip”). But there are three tracks here that really stick, and they're what make No More Heroes a worthwhile contribution to the great punk and near-punk records of thirty years ago.

“I Feel Like a Wog” - This track would be well-placed next to “White Noise” by Stiff Little Fingers, not only because it's got the only other reference to wogs I've ever heard used in song, but because both tracks find respective singers Hugh Cornwell and Jake Burns relating to social isolation with a lot of bark and bite in their voices. “I Feel Like a Wog” opens this record with a bass line that swings and swaggers, and overall its heavy beat hits faster and faster with every listen.

“Bitching” - I think this might be a fairly direct musical ripoff of “Sister Ray.” In fact, I'm sure it is, though the Stranglers understood humor in a way Lou Reed probably didn't, and it's likely that Lou Reed never would have bothered writing a song about “bar bitching,” the theme that built an entire song out of a chorus. However simple that lyrical theme, and however unoriginal the song, one of my very favorite moments in music occurs at the very beginning of this song, when a rolling guitar solo (much like that prompting the Hives' “Main Offender”) gives way to a quick and dynamic bass line seven seconds in, even if this moment's ruined another seven seconds thereafter with a corny chop of the ol' keyboard. Poor Dave Greenfield and all the crap I give his keyboard.

“Peasant in the Big Shitty” - If you're a fan of the first Damned album, consider this the “Feel the Pain” of No More Heroes, the slow non-ballad that breaks up the album and means to be more camp than darkness. Much in the way “Feel the Pain” speeds up as it ends and suddenly becomes a rock song, “Peasant in the Big Shitty” lurks and then breaks down, only on top of that sped-up conclusion is the unexpected breakdown-turned guitar solo-turned-keyboard solo, occurring mid-song. It's kind of a mess, actually, but all the additional effects here are fascinating; Dave Greenfield's vocal prowl twists off as each line ends, as if the person manning the production booth had just discovered effects like pitch control and wanted to add a few thrills. And there's a great, deep echo added to Greenfield's ghostly utterance of “The cows go moo moo moo,” not to mention the echo that extends “fear” on “The room is full of fear” toward song's end.

Purchase No More Heroes

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