Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Stranglers - Aural Sculpture

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Aural Sculpture, the eighth studio album from the Stranglers. It charted at number 35 in Canada, number 31 in the Netherlands, number 17 in Denmark, number 14 in the UK and number 13 in New Zealand.

Side one opens with “Ice Queen”, a cool tune about a man who squares off against an emotionally guarded woman. I like this one a lot; it is a good start to the record for me.

“Skin Deep”, the first single, went to number 21 in the Netherlands, number 19 in New Zealand, number 17 in Belgium, number 15 in the UK, and number 11 in Australia and Ireland. The song has a catchy synth hook with a bobbing bass line in the background. The backing vocals on the chorus remind me of 60’s Brit pop records, of which I was a big fan.

The third single “Let Me Down Easy” hit number 48 in the UK. The mid-tempo tune focuses on aging and a request for compassion when death comes. Even with a darker subject matter, the music has a beautiful melody to it.

The second single was “No Mercy”; it charted at number 90 in Australia, number 88 in Canada, number 37 in the UK, number 32 in the Netherlands, number 28 in Denmark, and number 8 in Belgium. I like the rhythm of this one a lot; it is a peppy pop song with a pessimistic lyrical message.

“Northwinds” delivers a haunting message about the horrors of war and the changes that come when new leadership takes over afterwards.

Side two starts with up-tempo “Uptown”.

“Punch and Judy”, named after a popular puppet show from the early days of television, is a jaunty number about a couple. The horns on this one are big and bold, adding a powerful punch to it.

“Spain” has a snappy rhythm to it that had my head bopping right along with it.

“Laughing” is a slow, soulful song about the death of Marvin Gaye. Apparently, he was lined up to produce an album for the band, but that never came to pass.

“Souls” starts with a fade-in as if we are joining the song already in progress. It is a clever effect. The lyrics tell of a soul-crushing woman. The mid-tempo beat is swinging.

The original vinyl album closes with “Mad Hatter”, a doo-wop bopping piece inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

A later CD re-release added eight additional tracks, including the non-album B-sides to each of the singles. All of these can be found for streaming on sites like Spotify or for download at your usual digital music source.

This was my first listen to Aural Sculpture and I found myself enjoying every track. This was certainly the kind of record I would have been into had I heard it back in 1984. Luckily, old music never dies and can be enjoyed decades later. I definitely will be revisiting this record by the Stranglers again and will likely add it to my collection at some point as well.

For more of the Stranglers, click here.

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