Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugh's best work in 3 decades, 26 Sep 2012
This review is from: Totem And Taboo (Audio CD)
Give or take a few filler tracks from various solo + Stranglers albums I like everything Hugh Cornwell has ever released. Not 'just another artist' - one of the finest songwriters of the last 35 years. High praise indeed.

Unlike some of his contemporaries Hugh has dabbled in many styles during his career many of which have gone unnoticed due to a fairly low key solo profile resulting in poor record sales in comparison to the major league success he enjoyed as frontman of The Stranglers.

The title of my review may sound slighly melodramatic but as collective body of work I have to say Totem & Taboo is overall the best thing Hugh's produced since the La Folie album. It's a shame that the likes of Hi Fi (a rather good quirky set of psychedelia inspired pop) & Beyond Elysian Fields (equally strong acoustic based MOR) failed to make any waves commercially, whilst their rich textures glowed and shimmered Totem & Taboo on the other hand just charges at you - if Hugh doesn't have your attention with this album then frankly you're listening to the wrong artist!

It would be fallacious to suggest his previous albums suffered from a lack of cohesion or appeared disjointed but there's a real unity and sense of direction on Totem & Taboo - Hugh is right on the money from the first few bars. The title track is full of urgency almost verging on boisterous and would make an excellent single if Hugh had the clout of say Weller or Morrissey.

Sticking with the T&T theme there's a great contrast in 'The Face' with the vocals coming across as detached from the music, this works a treat. We're then back up a gear with the quite brilliant 'I Want One Of Those' an amusing look at consumerism in which Hugh delivers one of if not his most accomplished guitar solo to date. Yes Hugh really is pulling out all the stops here. Steve Albini's mix on the whole album shines like a beacon coupled with the fact that Steve Fishman & Chris Bell (seasoned pro's that have played with Hugh on and off for 20 years now) really do suit this collection of songs.

The other songs that really stand out are God Is A Woman (a nod to Badge by Cream) & A Street Called Carroll - one of the catchiest songs Hugh has ever done, if only radio stations would bother to play it. All the other tracks are of a high standard with superb lyrics.

It can be hard sometimes to be subjective about something so new but if Hooverdam or previous efforts didn't quite do it for you give Totem & Taboo a go - I can't wait for the next one.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Dec 2012 12:49:22 GMT
Despite what he may say, Hugh was NOT the frontman of the Stranglers : they had three lead vocalists and didn't have a 'frontman' as anyone who ever saw them live will attest. They were a band in the true sense, all of them equally important to the music and chemistry, instead of a typical vocalist/guitarist/uncharismatic-underrated backing men combos that so many groups are.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2012 19:29:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Dec 2012 19:31:27 GMT
Adam Neil says:
Out of interest do you have anything to add about the album itself or are we just splitting hairs?

Yes there were 3 lead singers on the very early records (a small part of their vast history) but looking at the bigger picture out of the 150+ tracks Hugh took part in their keyboard player sang a whopping 3%.

I didn't become a fan 5 minutes ago (excuse the naff pun!) so don't need a potted history.
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