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on 21 April 2017
Peculiar album pretty much drug induced. But the experimentation is interesting. No fancy computer doing it. JJ Burnel the bass player cites it as his favourite and feels there is still more to explore. I must agree with that though not my favourite album. Stands on its own and certainly goes with the band's motto- Musically, something better change.
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on 5 February 2011
I've never been sure whether it's this or The Raven I like more but it's always been clear to me that they are both the result of The Stranglers at their creative peak. The Raven is probably more adventurous music-wise but this beats it on the production/engineering front, and that's all (apparently) the tireless work of the Stranglers themselves. There's a very, very lovely warm sound to this stuff, despite its often-discussed weirdness - it sounds really like nothing else. Oh and the ideas are totally off the wall. Which is the very least we should demand from our pop stars. A brilliant, brilliant record which everyone should own and reassess on an almost daily basis.
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on 6 November 2009
Ignore the dreaded 'concept album' tag, this is one that actually makes sense. Basically it floats the theory that Mankind was put on Earth by aliens as an experiment and they have visited to see what a success/hash we've made of it.The music, as you'd expect, is dark,hypnotic,repetitive but in no way boring. All the best albums create an atmosphere and this one has it in spades. Highlights include opener 'Waltzinblack', 'Thrown Away' 'Turn the Centuries Turn' and my personal-all-time-favourite Stranglers track 'Second Coming'. The production is superb, the metallic drum sound created from Hugh Cornwell's idea of using portable tape recorders as drum mikes! The musicianship is of the Stranglers usual high standard, not that they ever get the credit for it by so-called music critics, and the mood it generates is compelling. If you're a casual fan that owns a greatest hits and little more, you may find the album a shock but I regard this album as essential if you want to call yourself a Stranglers fan. 'Rattus' and 'The Raven' run it close but for my money this is the Stranglers best record. Jean-Jacques Burnel has said the same in interviews and he should know!
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on 24 July 2002
Hello. I doubt Will Smith grooves much to this one. To be honest, neither do I - it's not that kind of an album, it's far too strange. It probably forms the centrepiece of the Annual Conspiracy Theorist's Convention After-Dinner Freak-Out ("How did you know?" gasp the conspiracy theorists, and I reply "<THEY> told me", to which they shrink fearfully away).
In this, the most marginal of all The Stranglers' work, Hugh and the gang offer us a dark and hypnotic soundtrack to the hypothesis of Biblical alien involvement. As with Radiohead's 'Kid A', 'Meninblack' (1981) was released in the wake of an acclaimed predecessor, and fans eagerly anticipating more of the same were disenchanted by the new sound. The situation was not improved when the least accessible track, 'Just Like Nothing On Earth' was issued as a single to promote the album, while prime chart material such as 'Two Sunspots' sat in conspicuous, upbeat solitude on the album.
Built on the foundations of paranoid doom laid in a track from 'The Raven', 'Meninblack' is a concept album years ahead of its time, with a strong, fluent narrative. The music is heavy and taut with the negativity and fear felt by the musicians during production.
All of which makes it sound like a really, really b-a-d listening experience. Well OK, it's true, you're not going to want this blasting out from your car stereo as you drive open-topped to the beach on a sunny day, nor as you attempt to lull yourself to sleep home alone at night. But on some other occasions, it's good: progressive, highly innovative, and intriguingly catchy. The sound has worn well: the passing of time has elevated the album within the context of its 'era' (I discovered it in 1993). Dave Greenfield's looping keyboards and synths are in the fore creating a trance-like ambience, never more so than in 'Waltzinblack', the beautiful yet grotesque opener. 'Turn The Centuries, Turn' and 'Hallow To Our Men' are hauntingly atmospheric; 'Two Sunspots' and 'Four Horsemen' have great melodies. Hugh lifts morale with occasional humour (er...sometimes at the expense of Jesus). All band members give it everything they've got, and the result is slick and seamless.
It's one of the most underappreciated records I can think of, and at or near to the pinnacle of The Stranglers' output. I'd say it's genius, but it's by no means to everyone's taste, and it's certainly no introduction to the band - that would be their debut 'Rattus Norveticus', or some 'Greatest Hits' affair. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in early Stranglers; fans of good keyboards; anyone up for testing the retrospective claim of bassist JJ Burnel that it sounds like a techno album; and Tommy Lee Jones. I expect it will also appeal to anyone who's gotten it into their head that Jesus was an alien.
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on 9 February 2003
Will Smith fans take note... The Stranglers always were ahead of their time. In this case, almost 20 years ahead. In the late 70's The Stranglers were rough, ready and as far removed from polished productions and concept albums as a rock band could get. It was a bold and brave move then that they entered the 80s with "Meninblack". After the fantastic "Raven" album, Burnel and Cornwell went their seperate ways to persue solo projects, namely "Euroman Cometh" and "Nosferatu" respectively. This appears to have been a ingenious move on their part, for on their return to Stranglers duties the band's sound was totally transformed. The production on this album is as clean as anything you'll hear, the group's inventiveness and musical ability is so far removed from "Raven" it almost sounds like a different group. But production value and virtuosity aside, what makes an album truly great is simple : the songs. "Meninblack" doesn't disappoint. "Waltzinblack" is sublime, "Just like nothing on earth" and "Waiting for the meninblack" showcase Cornwell's unusual and hypnotic guitar skills and Burnel's magnificent bass lines, while "Two sunspots" is a perfect melodic 3 minute "pop" song. "Thrown away" is quite simply one of the band's finest melodies. As for anyone put off by the very mention of "concept" albums, I'd ignore that tag. If there is a thread within these songs, it's almost impossible to follow. Just put on your headphones and enjoy the experience.
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VINE VOICEon 22 May 2007
This is a weird album. I could grab a thesaurus and maybe find an alternative but...no, weird's definitely the word.

That isn't to say it's unlikeable, far from it. For a start, it's so heavily-themed that for once the concept doesn't run out of steam after the first couple of songs (unlike THE RAVEN and it's hastily explored then ignored Nordic mythology schtick). Happily, the same can also be said for the bonus tracks which, apart from the gruesomely anachronistic TOMORROW WAS THE HEREAFTER, tie in neatly with echoes and ideas cribbed from such luminaries as Erich Von Daniken, Robert A. Heinlein and...Klaatu (misunderstood alien emissary, 'The Day The Earth Stood Still'). It is, in other words, a large slice of Pseudo-Profound Tosh. They know it and we know it. Eat your robotic heart out Isaac Asimov.

The production reflects this hi-fi sci-fi, with DAVE GREENFIELD's keyboards dominating the proceedings and providing the requisite amount of bleeps and whirrs, most noticeably on track two's, JUST LIKE NOTHING ON EARTH. Similarly, HUGH CORNWELL's guitar has been geared towards a more ethereal, otherworldly sound (TWO SUNSPOTS) and the same again for JEAN-JACQUES BURNEL's bass; previous rough edges softened leaving it more melodic, yet aloof, in the process (SECOND COMING). It's down to good old JET BLACK's relentless drum patterns to provide the solid backbone to this album's experimental feel - and to keep at least one foot on terra firma. Of all the MeninBlack, he'd be the last guy you'd choose to don a spacesuit for delicate EVA duties.

The songs are, without exception, highly effective. Leapfrogging the wonderful but ubiquitous WALTZINBLACK, the standout track for me is THROWN AWAY, a little pop gem, part spoken, part-sung, with a simplicity unlike any other track on the album. Sometimes less really is more. The pounding, cyclical, TURN THE CENTURIES TURN is a multilayered instrumental affair that works those high and low frequencies with a vengeance. Play loud. Picking up the pace is TWO SUNSPOTS, a lively number which has echoes of NO MORE HEROES lurking within it's core, followed by FOUR HORSEMEN, a catchy, mid-tempo, but slightly formula Stranglers song. Good stuff nonetheless. And see how the concept's still holding up?

Quality, continuity and, yes, more than a hint of pretention lay firmly at the heart of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE MENINBLACK but we're also very well rewarded for seeing it through to conclusion. Do buy it.

Oh, and check out that cover. Sorry to report to the Younger Generation but the original 12" GATEFOLD SLEEVE was SO much nicer. Sometimes size really does matter, kids.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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on 9 July 2008
When this album first came out it annoyed a quite a few Stranglers fans and probably still does. Everyone (including myself) expected a bunch of aggressive pop songs. The first single 'Thrown Away' was quite low key in comparison to what had been released up until then. I was intrigued, gave it a good listen and then moved away.

It was only on it's re-release on CD that I gave it another go. This album has an importance and significance that was simply overshadowed by what had come before. Heard on it's own terms this album really shines out as something of a masterpiece.

I've given it 5 stars because it really is a 'fantastic' album both in terms of it's subject matter and it's sound. It displays everything that made the Stranglers great but in another form. I think that's what a lot of listeners can't easily accept. It's recklessly daring and truly inventive. No one else could have attempted a project such as this and done it so well.

The slightly disturbing thing about 'The Meninblack' is that the band totally believed in the premise underlying the songs. Could four rational men really go to such efforts to communicate this strange message to the world? Luckily, the answer is yes they could. But they certainly paid for it. This was (perhaps unsurprisingly) an unhappy time for the band. Their equipment got stolen, the band was arrested in Nice following a riot, Hugh Cornwell was jailed on drug posession charges and their tour manager died. As JJ Burnel said - "If you dwell on black things then black things will happen to you".

The critics savaged this album and it is to the bands credit that they managed to swiftly move on to achieve astonishing success with the album that was to follow - the 1981 album 'La Folie'. It's interesting to note that their most successful (and ivor novello award winning) single 'Golden Brown' was actually a discarded section from 'Second Coming' - track three on 'The Gospel According to The Meninblack'.

The least that can be said about this album is that it's a flawed masterpiece. Technically extraordinary and musically accomplished this album is not for everyone. But for those with ears to hear what's really going on this album really is just like nothing on earth.
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on 26 October 2014
Their difficult fifth album that wasn't very commercial at the time but now appears to be one of the greatest things they ever did.

A wacky conspiracy theory concept album covering everything from The Bible, ETI's and the menacing Men In Black, it's a tour de force of strange and bizzare concepts that holds together due to the sheer genius and musicality of the band.

Worth it for the stunning final track Hallow To Our Men alone, every track on it is interesting.

Very good album.

Highly Recommended, a must buy.
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on 20 June 2004
Quiet simply my favourite Stranglers album of the lot. But it is different, very different, but all in all magnificent. If you're prepared to open your ears and listen to this you'll be pleased that you've done so.
Buy it, enjoy it and enjoy your own second coming.
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on 20 June 2011
The pub rockers hit the hit parade pay dirt in the summer of punk due thanks to the tough, catchy, slice-of-life numbers. That was good for a clutch of singles and a brace of albums. By 'Black and White' they still had the toughness but more varied dynamics alongside greater consistency of quality. 'The Raven' really raised the bar but tucked away on Side 2 was the decidedly odd tale of extra-terrestrial visitors 'Meninblack', the sets weakest cut. We assumed that was the end of it but the theme was revived the following year with the admittedly cracking single 'Who wants the world', backed by an instrumental 'Meninblack(waiting for 'em)' and various band interviews featured muddled theorising about heavenly visitors and conspiracies of governments complicity and promises of a concept album revealing all. The Stranglers had turned into Erik Von Daniken with guitars and now we feared the worst. No real suprises then when it finally appeared that the grandiously titled 'The Gospel According to the Meninblack' was barking. What made it worst was that, unlike their previous releases, the production was thin and tinny with the tunes nowhere to be found (having presumably been abducted by aliens). 'Waiting for the meninblack' (the old 'World' flip side but now with words) and 'Thrown Away' were about the only things you could whistle. Elsewhere it was weak songs and filler instrumentals. And it was dull. It would take a lot for the Stranglers to recover from this - and frankly in terms of their old hard hitting, hard sounding, nastiness they never really did. By the time they got back to some sort of form they were sporting hand made accoustic guitars and displaying a sensitivity that their old brawling misogynistic selves would have duffed them up for.
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