Currently rebuying some of my old favourite Stranglers albums that I used to have on vinal. I love the dark , menacing vibe of this album, but I can only listen to 'side one' , or half of it at a time , because the whole album would be too much darkness & gloom for me in one session. I love the crisp, raw & powerful interplay of the keys, guitars, drums , bass.& vocals. There is something essential for me with the Stranglers at their best.: Ratteus Norvegeus, Black & White, No More Heroes & Raven
The faces and poses on the cover say it all - the band that was beginning to drive themselves harder instead of falling apart. The music didn't suffer, it just became both more aggressive and more subtle (Up and Down?). After the previous two albums this was a bit of a shocker. Suddenly the songwriting has taken on a new angle. There's the pseudo-reggae of 'Nice and Sleazy', the jaunty epic 'Toiler on the Sea', the dark and growling 'In the Shadows' and an up and down, black and white goodie bag of Stranglers classics. From 'Rattus Norvegicus' to 'The Raven' they just didn't seem to be able to put a foot wrong. Rarely have 4 musicians fitted together like the perfect jigsaw that is the Stranglers. The bonus tracks include the brilliant reworking of 'Walk on By' and an amazing 'Old Codger' with jazz officionado George Melly on vocals. The only thing this album lacks is the kitchen sink!
For me the BEST ever Stranglers record. On vinyl originally this just brutalised my record player constantly until The Raven arrived in the following year. Just listen to Curfew for a hair on the back of the neck Goose bump moment and then you only get Tank, Toiler On The Sea, Rise Of The Robots, Threatened, Nice n Sleazy or the menace of In The Shadows and even Dave's vocals are a treat on Do You Wanna. Just a great, great record that deserves to be heard and many of these songs are still an asset to the live shows today and sounding just as good.
As far as this album goes the title of my review is true. You'll either love it or hate it and I suspect that will apply to fans as well? As for me I love it, partly due to the fact that there are some Eno type influences lurking about somewhere 'in the shadows'. Forgotten which side is supposed to be which now (other than the colour of the CD inner) and don't suppose it really matters if you do not possess the original vinyl (I still have somewhere with the white 7" freebie), but tracks 7 to 11 seem to be the ones that will stick in your head so I suppose they are the black ones? Furthermore how can anyone not like the pseudo-reggae classic that is very 'Nice and Sleazy'? With the advent of CD the original freebie make an appearance, but Walk On By is still a waste of space! For those who are not sure which version of this CD I am referring to it is the first CD release as I understand variations abound. In the end though it matters not, just buy it! Finally, am I the only one who originally thought that on Toiler On The Sea they were actually singing 'toilet on the sea', or was I having a senior moment even at 21? 'Have you to got enough time' to even consider it though?
The production values are the same as on their first two albums, but on 'Black And White' The Stranglers shift from schoolboy sniggers and misanthropy toward serious issues. They retain their confrontational stance, as ever, but 'Sweden' marks a new target, the nation. The first, 'white,' side of the original LP links with previous recordings and is, for the most part, quite manic, laced with the usual thrilling keyboard runs. Only the reggae-slanted 'Nice 'n' Sleazy' and the short, sober 'Outside Tokyo' differ from this approach. 'Tank' is familiar fare, about a recruit who can't wait to go out and 'maim.' 'Sweden' and 'Toiler On The Sea' are relentless epics and the pacy, sax-ridden 'Hey!' portrays a future in which machines rule. The second side is the jaw-dropper. Visions of Russian invasion, stalkers, bloodlust and apccalypse are new and frightening areas. Gone also is the infectious hit potential, replaced by JJ Burnel's nightmarish vocal delivery, and plainer, repetitive patterns. Bonus tracks are the usual mixture of comical throwaways that appeared on b-sides and the free EP that came with the LP, plus the superb, 6-minute hit cover of 'Walk On By,' which was also featured on the EP. 'Black And White' is a leap forward for an already formidable band, but it doesn't make easy listening.
This was a Christmas present from my mum & dad way back in 78 I don't think I've ever grown out of it . Musically they were head and shoulders above their contemporaries , this album proves it. The departure from punk to something more sophisticated and probably more instinctive. The first song 'tank' is a great opening track [especially that effect with the guitar that sounds like a gun being cocked] the trademark long last track 'toiler', they seem to always have a long end track on every album . Also good to see the additional tracks 'walk on by' [very doors influenced] and the very funny 'old codger' sung by Hughs' friend the outrageous George Melly. This is an album of two sides [as the title suggests]the white side and the black side [more apparent on vinyl] "do you wanna" and "death and night and blood" two very different songs that are segwayed in an imaginative way. An excellent album and a great band.
Love this? Then you will want to get the LIVE version! There is a a LIVE version of this album (available as CD only, not vinyl). But it seems to be available only from the Stanglers official website. I think it is their best live album. And it features Old Codger sung by Jet Black! As for this studio version, it is highly recommended. I bought it in W.H. Smiths in Brighton when it was released and still get get a great kick out of listening to it.