IN YOUR EAR
By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Sideout, 2,300 yen
If this album had been recorded by a bunch of
20-year-old punks, music journalists would be hailing them as the next big
thing to hit the music scene.
Yet this is the Stranglers, who released their
first album way back in 1977 and have a drummer who is aged, er, 68.
As one of the bands that emerged from the British
punk scene in the 1970s, the Stranglers celebrate 30 years since Rattus
Norvegicus with the release of their 16th album, aptly titled Suite XVI.
The rump of the original band is still there, with
original members Jean-Jacques Burnel on bass and vocals, Dave Greenfield on
keyboards and Jet Black on drums joined by Baz Warne on vocals and guitar.
Warne's second album with the band since joining
them almost seven years ago sees the band's new frontman doing a fine job as
singer and songwriter, though Burnel chips in with some choice nuggets, such as
I Hate You.
After so many albums, it's tempting to suggest
that the Stranglers are preaching to the converted, but Suite XVI has a
surprisingly fresh sound that will appeal to old and new listeners alike.
As ever, the band's defining sound is Dave
Greenfield's organ, and his soaring runs up and down the keyboard swirl around
the album without ever becoming overbearing.
The opening three numbers set a strong pace, with
Spectre of Love and She's Slipping Away particularly catchy tunes. Bless You
(Save You, Spare You, Damn You) is the high point of the record, though some
Stranglers fans might think it a little overblown.
Summat Outanowt is a rasping number that will take
diehards of the band's punk days back to when Burnel was belting out London
Lady and Five Minutes.
See Me Coming might be familiar to some Japanese
listeners as it is taken from Burnel's musical contribution to Gankutsuou, an
anime series based on The Count of Monte Cristo, broadcast about two years ago
on TV Asahi.
The domestic release contains two bonus tracks,
Instead of This and Death and Night and Blood, both recorded live in London in
It's been 15 years since the group's Japanese fans
have been able to enjoy such live gems, so with the release of Suite XVI, not
to mention Burnel's love of karate, it would seem that a visit to these shores
is long overdue.
Reformation Post TLC
Slogan/Hostess, 2,415 yen
Reformation Post TLC sees Smith in a typically eclectic mood, which is just as
the band's followers have liked Fall albums over the past 28 years.
The opening track, Over Over sets the pace well,
with Smith's trademark vocals complementing the driving backing provided by his
A cover of Merle Haggard's White Line Fever merges
into Insult, a stream-of-consciousness Captain Beefheartesque odyssey that
starts in Los Angeles and ends in the rolling hills of Lancashire, England.
Smith has compared his role in the Fall to that of
a football manager. But after a good start, the Salfordian's "team"
seems to fade in the last quarter, though Systematic Abuse offers a brief
respite for fans.
Like Manchester City, Smith's favorite football
team, the Fall are still midtable Premier League quality and likely to remain
so for a few more years to come.