cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie

 cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie

These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.

 

 

 

"If people can survive listening to the whole of it, it might be reconsidered. It certainly came from another place. Fuck knows where that place is.”" - [Loudersound.com] .. .. .. "Work of genius" - [Billboard] .. .. .. "It is quite a beautiful album, as elegant a piece of music as you could wish to hear. Shimmering, atmospheric, lyrically engaging, crafted musicianship. [This review]

This is album review Number 218 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.

The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

This group was in fact, one of the most successful to come out of the Punk era. The Punk era commenced in the UK around the mid 1970’s and this group had its first album released in 1977.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folieThe group is The Stranglers and this is their 1981 album – La Folie

The album has 11 tracks, 6 tracks on side 1 and the remaining 5 tracks on side 2. It also comes with a fold out – double A4 insert.

Their story is involved, lengthy but also interesting. The group had its genesis in 1974 in Guildford, Surrey, England and that gave rise to their name – Guildford Stranglers.

The band was started by Brian Duffy, who was born in 1938 and had been playing drums in bands since the late ’50s, and he wanted to put together a band and devote more time to music.

Given he was 36 years of age at the time, he was in some ways an unlikely person to be a member of what would become one of the great “punk” bands. Duffy recruited three musicians to join him in his new project. Hugh Cornwell (born in 1949) was a guitarist and vocalist who had played in blues bands, Jean-Jacques Burnel (born 1952) who had a background in classical guitar before he took up the bass, and, Hans Wärmling who played guitar and keyboards.

Duffy adopted the stage name Jet Black, and soon the group was regularly playing pubs as well as occasional weddings and private gigs. En route to a 1975 booking where they were asked to play a set of covers for a Bar Mitzvah celebration, Wärmling quit, and Dave Greenfield (born 1949), who had been playing in bands since the late ’60s, came aboard as their keyboard player, and the definitive lineup of what would become known as The Stranglers was complete.

Deciding their name as the Guildford Stranglers was too long and wordy they slashed their name back to The Stranglers. They earned a reputation on the club scene, and their sinister name and sound helped them find gigs in the burgeoning punk rock community, including opening shows for visiting Americans Patti Smith and the Ramones.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
The Stranglers: L to R Dave Greenfield; Hugh Cornwell; Jet Black & J.J Burnell (bottom) – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

United Artists signed the band (with A&M Records picking up American rights to their recordings), and their debut album, 1977’s Rattus Norvegicus, arrived in shops in April 1977.

Their music didn’t sound or feel much like the fast-loud guitar-based fury of the Damned, the Sex Pistols, and the Clash. Instead, their music initially suggested a grimy version of ’60s garage punk with a sinister psychedelic undertow added by Dave Greenfield’s keyboards.

By the time they got to recording this album – La Folie, they had proved that their musicianship was well advanced and in many ways, this was an album that belied the title of punk. In fact, it and the band, has basically thrown off the image of being punk and were well entrenched in the New Wave genre, which allowed the group to expand its fan base and, it’s popularity.

It is easy to argue that, track for track, all 11 songs on this album are among their strongest and most consistent of all their releases.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
The Stranglers – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

With La Folie [ The Madness] they successfully avoided the pitfalls of their earlier albums which almost consistently were a mash of tracks that were fillers and tracks that were out and out. Apparently The group had the concept of the album to be about, the “madness of love” – hence the title.

So it is that much like their album Meninblack, La Folie is a loose concept album, with each track focused on a different aspect of love.

Track Listing:

SIDE !

  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

SIDE 2

  1. Pin Up
  2. It Only Takes Two To Tango
  3. Golden Brown
  4. How To Find True Love And Happiness In The Present Day
  5. La Folie
cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Rear Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
  • Hugh Cornwell
    guitar, vocals, lead vocals
  • J.J. Burnel
    bass, vocals, lead vocals
  • Dave Greenfield
    keyboards, vocals
  • Jet Black
    drums
  • Steve Churchyard
    engineer
  • Tony Visconti
    mixing
cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Insert: List of lyrics – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Insert : List of everyone involved in the album production – [CLICK to enlarge]

Track 1Non Stop. This according to my process of reviewing, is the track that introduces the album, and we always expect a statement, something that stands out and wants us to hear more.

It delivers!  This has to be one of the all-time catchiest keyboard introductions, in fact it’s a brilliant but odd-ball piece of keyboard playing right through.

You want catchy? This track has it. The first time I played this album (as a much younger man) it hit me behind the eyes because it simply didn’t fit what I had come to expect from “punk music” – as I discovered, for me, even though this is a great track, there was even better to come.

The track was meant to be titled – Non Stop Nun, unbeknown to the group, some one at the record company unilaterally decided to change the name by deleting “nun”!

Dedicated emancipated
Claims she waited her life for her man
Loves to pray every day
Says she’s not frustrated in any way
Dressed in a black cotton sack
Pledges herself and she never looks back
She’s a non stop nun
She’s a non stop nun
She’s a non stop nun

I love the delivery by Hugh Cornwell.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Hugh Cornwell – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Non Stop

Each track deserves to be investigated, but for this retro-review I have moved straight to the final track on Side 1, one of my two very favourite tracks on this album, Track 6The Man They Love To Hate.

The track is about love, but in a kind of a warped way. The lyrics are open to interpretation, but for me they suggest it is the story of a “man”, who came from a family, where he was physically abused by his father. it would seem that the abuse left its mark on him and although he found his own girl to love, he finds that despite his hatred for the way he was treated, he treats the girl who loves him, the same way as he was treated.

So it is, although she loves him, she has to leave him.

They woke to grey English morning
And to a strange honeymoon
The girl who gave him all her love
And the man who said it still wouldn’t do

His parents always worked hard
Never went to bed late
And though they were God’s own people
They’re still the ones he loves to hate

He never wanted to
Suffer this fate
All the girls have fallen for
The man they love to hate

The city is an animal
It snores and by day it roars
And though he loved to hate it
He couldn’t live without its flaws

With pastel curtains moaning
At a thousand harsh words – then hush
The girl she wanted to leave
Because she loved the man too much

He never wanted to
Suffer this fate
All the girls have fallen for
The man they love to hate

His father was a fighter
And he practised on his son
His mother was just some furniture
Who’d lost the will to run

The girl she wrote him a farewell note
And though he probably didn’t care too much
The girl she finally left him
Because she loved the man too much

The story is powerful, and the track is powerful. The whole track is finely crafted again reminding us, that this “punk” group, was rapidly changing, with the times.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Jet Black – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

The Man They Love To Hate

We turn the LP over and start with Track 3Golden Brown.

This is, among very many fine tracks on this album – my favourite.

It was released as a 7″ single, on Liberty, in December 1981 in the United States and in January 1982 in the United Kingdom. It was also released around the same time in Australia and was, a top 10 hit around the world, including Australia.

This track has an amazing baroque feel about it, where the flowing melodic lines use decorative notes such as trills and turns and has a contrapuntal texture where two melodic lines are combined – beautifully. 

This track more than any other declares boldly – The Stranglers may have been a punk group, they may have been an excellent punk group, but they have, and here demonstrate they have, got much more to their musical abilities.

Yet while we can easily get trapped in the clever use of a harpsichord, of all instruments and played by Dave Greenfield, and get involved with the beauty and flowing of the lyrics and harmonies – it does seem we have a track with duplicate meanings.

We turn to The Strangers for an explanation. In his book The Stranglers Song By Song (2001), Hugh Cornwell states “‘Golden Brown’ works on two levels. It’s about heroin and also about a girl.” Essentially the lyrics describe how “both provided me with pleasurable times.

So it can be love with pleasure and or pain.  I’ll take the pleasure and leave the heroin behind.

An amazing track and my favourite.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Dave Greenfield – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Golden Brown

Track 5 on Side Two – La Folie, is beautifully, beautifully crafted. Just how sensitive can a “punk group” get? Well, this track answers that question!

It is rich with a fabulous sonic wash and brilliantly played, the lyrics are sung in French – which deliberately or otherwise, add a soft sensitive feeling to the piece.

This track is sung by bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, and it is delivered very much in the Lou Reed style of half spoken and half sung – and very effectively done. 

We can sit back and imagine the beauty of this “love song”, until we actually understand – that while it is about love, in a beautiful and somewhat bizarre twist of “punk humour”, the track alluding to Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa, who loved a woman so much he ate her.

If we look at a translation of the lyrics, in part they say –

He was once a student
Who strongly wanted, like in literature,
His girlfriend, she was so sweet
That he could almost eat her
Rejecting all vices
Warding off all evils
Destroying all beauty
Who, besides, had never been his accomplices
Because he was mad
He was mad
 

It was released as the follow up to “Golden Brown” in April 1982, and peaked at number 47 in the UK Singles Chart.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
Jean-Jacques Burnel – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

La Folie

So, here we are. La Folie by The Stranglers. If ever the name of a group was almost perpendicular to the feel of an album – this would be it!

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
The Stranglers on stage – [CLICK to enlarge]
It is quite a beautiful album, as elegant a piece of music as you could wish to hear. Shimmering, atmospheric, lyrically engaging, crafted musicianship. All this is so remarkable when you consider the crass laddish rockers they were in 1977.

I can only wonder how many of their original fans took the journey through the stylistic changes this album presents us with.

Sadly Dave Greenfield passed away on May 3rd of this year. he had been hospitalised because of heart problems and then tested positive for the novel coronavirus a week before he died.

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

The vinyl LP is available through Discogs at a variety of prices, but to get a decent copy you will pay around $25Au plus postage.

For anyone not necessarily seeking the vinyl form, it is available new on CD for only around $15.00 and the CD has bonus tracks. 

cream of the crate review #218: the stranglers – la folie


VIDEOS:

Because of the period this album was recorded in, there is a good selection of live clips of tracks from the album.

 

Everybody Loves you When You’re Dead

 

Let Me Introduce You To The Family

 

Golden Brown (An excellent performance)

 

La Folie


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –

cream of the crate: album reviews #151 – 200