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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 15 May 2014
As a life long Stranglers fan I refused to listen to Hugh's solo stuff until a couple of years back and now I have his full catalogue. I liked this album instantly, he has shoved in a few licks of' 'psychedelic' lead guitar and the back drop rattles along at a fair pace too on a few tracks, Song 3 is brilliant! 'Window Shopping' - It is a classic example of his clever and witty writing skills. It is simple but it brings a smile to my face as does Bad Vibrations. He has made a play on the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations (I think) But why does the final track Dead of Night have to last 9 and a half minutes? There are only two songs I know of that last as long (Green Day classics)and they wrk because they are full of variety. Dead of Nightt just trundles along. Four minutes would have sufficed on that one Shuggie! Never the less a very good album.
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on 31 December 2013
Totem and Taboo (a title lifted from Sigmund Freud) is Hugh Cornwell's latest solo album, and finds the man a little introspective and autobiographical and still penning some classic rock tunes.

The opening track, "Totem and Taboo", is belting opener with Hugh's characteristic electric guitar technique and vocal delivery, relatively sparse production and arrangement (the current band incarnation is only bass and drums). Social criticism is never far away, with America the target in "Gods Guns and Gays"; "Stuck in Daily Mail Land" sticks it to Daily Mail readers (never his favourite newspaper); "I Want One of Those" goes for consumerism, and perhaps a gentle ribbing for religious types in "God is a Woman". "A Street Called Carroll" mixes film noir and personal experience in one of Los Angeles' oldest suburbs, all to a classic Stranglers-style drum/bass backing. The closer, "In the Dead of Night" surely deserves to accompany a Quentin Tarantino movie?

A vibrant, toe-tapping album, and his best for some time. Totally recommended.
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on 26 September 2012
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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on 6 October 2012
This will be the album that brings in the Stranglers' fans. No keyboards weighing things down. This is a tight power trio. The guitar work is creative and intense. The overall sound is clean and in your face. Hugh's voice has never sounded stronger. Steve and Chris's rhythm section holds it all together.
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on 18 September 2012
A great progression from Hooverdam with better production and more importantly much much better songs.

Unlike most previous Hugh albums there really isn't a duff track on this short and very sweet album - 10 cracking tracks with Hugh really rockin' out on a couple of them. Like all great albums it takes about 3 listens before its brilliance hits you.

And we also get an epic Richard Hawley type closer clocking in at almost 10 minutes, the chorus of which could be the long lost relation of the Stranglers' Too Precious from their 1986 album Dreamtime.

Great return to form from Hugh.
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on 28 September 2012
Sometimes albums just work, coming together as greater than the sum of the parts. This one certainly comes up trumps, with all the elements gelling into a sonically sublime musical feast. The clarity of sound marks this out as one of Hugh Cornwell's finest albums. Everything is clear as a bell, so you can hear everything that is going on, as well as appreciate the collective performance. The songs are all really good, some hitting me immediately and other growers keeping me interested. I've been listening non stop to this album in the car since I got it. Every word is audible, and with lyrics as clever and thought provoking as these, no lyric sheet is required. Hugh uses his life experience to come up with cracking lines about all sorts of subjects. It's fun trying to work out the meanings behind his one liners. The guitar sound is superb, with some fine sustained, twangy Telecaster notes and quirky solos. Drum and bass sounds are also captured really well - no kitchen sink thrown in here, just fine bass runs and resonant drum and percussion noises. Hugh's voice has always been unique and enjoyable to listen to, and his vocal chords are obviously maturing nicely. All in all, a fantastic album that I will be playing a lot more in the future. Get it!
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I discovered this album, almost by accident. I'm a big fan of David Ford, who is supporting Hugh Cornwell on his current tour in the UK, so decided that, seeing as I rather like The Stranglers, would go and catch him on one of the dates. I had no idea what Hugh had been up to for years (the last album I'd heard anything from was 1997's "Guilty") and thought that it'd be best to check out his latest album so I'd know some of the material he was likely to perform. So, back in July, I ordered "Totem & Taboo" and was astonished to find out that, given a couple of plays, this album has become one of my firm favourites of the year - it's absolutely fantastic! I really the sound throughout the Steve Albini-produced album, it has a gritty rock feel to it, the riffs are brilliant, the lyrics superb... it's just one of the best, most honest, no-frills rock albums I've heard and, although I'm not conversant with all of Hugh's solo output, it's certainly the best things I've ever heard from him, his former band included.

My favourite tracks include "The Face" which is big, brash and downright catchy, as well as being quite amusing and, like many songs on this album, features a superb dirty guitar solo. "Stuck In Daily Mail Land" is a light-hearted rip on the reactionary right-wing rag, the delicious "Bad Vibrations" is held together by a rude, thundering bass guitar riff and "God Is A Woman" cheekily borrows the riff from Cream's "Badge", but it's such a good track that it's easily forgiveable. "A Street Called Carroll" boasts beautifully melodic vocals over a heavy rock backing which works brilliantly and the near-ten minute epic "In The Dead Of Night" ends the album with a flourish of creativity and ambition. It's not easy picking highlights, though; very nearly every track on "Totem and Taboo" is excellent and, for me, "Love Me Slender" is the only composition I'd consider to be a little ordinary. This remarkable album has given me a renewed and, in fact, greater appreciation of Hugh's work and talent and I'm sure this one will be listened to regularly for years to come.
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on 22 October 2012
This is a great album. Clever, witty and perceptive and showcasing Hugh's magnificent vocals. Not as angry or snarling as I like, but I guess it's not 1977 anymore and it's great nontheless! All of the songs are different but each one is more catchy than the previous one. I'm going to have to stop listening to this album as I can't get it out of my head (now I'm singing Kylie...)
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on 27 April 2015
Great album , hugh corwell, like a vintage wine , improves with age , down to the basics hugh on guitar an vocals , an bass player an drummer.....simple but effective formula!! by it!!
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on 12 September 2012
Hugh's back with another fine album. Thankfully this has got a far better production than the last album Hooverdam and the songs are just as good. Hugh even sounds like his old nasty self again! Highlights for me are I want one of those, A street called Carol and the epic In the dead of the night which is on a par with the Stranglers epic closing tracks like Down in the Sewer and Too Precious. Every song is excellent so it's well worth the money.
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