10 Best Stranglers Songs
Without question, the Strangers were one of the most dynamic and interesting bands to emerge from the rock ‘n’ roll explosion of the late-’70s U.K. punk scene. Odd men out, they were older and more musically diverse than most of the other bands making their names at the time. Guitarist/vocalist Hugh Cornwell and drummer Jet Black were both above reproach, while the crunching bass of Jean-Jacques Burnel and the swirling keyboards of Dave Greenfield gave them their signature sound. Age and technical ability probably worked both for and against them at various times, but one thing was for certain: They made a lot of great music and were never dull. The band soldiers on to this day with all original members except Cornwell, who left in 1990 for a distinguished solo career. The band’s last three albums — including this year’s ‘Giants’ — have seen them return, in part, to their early sound, and in honor of their longevity, we look back at the 10 Best Stranglers Songs.
‘Who Wants the World?’
A Top 40 hit about alien invasion? Sure, why not! ‘Who Want’s the World’ was issued as a single in mid-1980 as a precursor to their ‘Gospel According to the Meninblack’ LP, which dealt with similar themes on a wider scale. The chopping rhythm and instantly catchy chorus make this a winner from the get-go.
No one expected the Stranglers to return to form as brilliantly as they did with the 2004 album ‘Norfolk Coast,’ but return to form they did. The signature Stranglers style is back in full bloom once again, most evident on the album’s title track. The only thing that would have made it better would have been the return of Hugh Cornwell, but vocalist Paul Roberts more than holds his own. The band is on fire here, sounding better than it had in ages. The album, and the title song in particular, set the stage for ‘Suite XVI’ and ‘Giants,’ the killer pair of albums that followed.
‘Strange Little Girl’
One of the Stranglers’ most beautiful songs, ‘Strange Little Girl’ is a haunting ballad that actually dates back to the band’s earliest days but fell through the cracks. The song was finally recorded and released as a single in the summer of 1982. It proved to be a wise move, as the song hit the U.K. Top 10, peaking at No. 7. It would be the last single the band would release for Liberty/United Artists before their move to a new home at Epic Records.
Propelled by the simple instrumentation of harpsichord and piano, ‘Golden Brown,’ No. 7 on our list of the 10 Best Stranglers Songs, is a minimalist pop portrait. Having first appeared on the band’s 1981 LP ‘La Folie,’ it was released as a single in early 1982 and became a surprise hit, climbing to No. 2 in the U.K. Eventually, drums and guitars find their way in, adding a jazzy texture to the song. Hugh Cornwell’s vocals are at the heart of the song, and in the book ‘The Stranglers Song By Song,’ the singer is quoted as saying the somewhat controversial lyrics work on two different levels. “It’s about heroin, and also about a girl,” he said.
The song that kicks off the Stranglers’ third LP, ‘Black and White,’ is a scorcher! ‘Tank’ rumbles out of the gate full speed ahead, tanked up on eternal piss and vinegar. That cool-as-can-be crunching bass guitar, coupled with the otherworldly organ, is enough to make one’s head spin.
‘Something Better Change’
‘Something Better Change’ is the Stranglers at their garage/pub-rock best. The song spills out like a depraved take on Paul Revere & the Raiders or the Seeds. Handling vocals on this go-round is bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, whose snotty delivery is truly ace. Meanwhile, Hugh Cornwell dishes out one of his finest guitar solos. Backed by the equally thrilling ‘Straighten Out,’ the single scored big, reaching the U.K. Top 10. Pure Stranglers magic!
‘Peaches’ was a big hit for the guys in the summer of 1977, hitting No. 8, but it didn’t get there without a bit of controversy. Unlike the political furors caused by the Clash and Sex Pistols, the controversy here was due to the song’s sexual nature. Cornwell’s vocals seethe with lecherous lust, and the reggae-influenced track is locked into its groove by the stellar bass of Jean-Jacques Burnel and Cornwell’s jagged guitars. The song sticks in the head instantly, so it’s no wonder it sold so well and remains a live staple, both for Cornwell and the Stranglers.
No. 3 on our list of the Best Stranglers Songs is a 1978 non-LP single that serves as a great example of what the group was all about. Dripping with attitude, ambition and anger, ‘5 Minutes’ is pretty much untouchable. From the ominous intro right on through the entire three-minute ride, the band are in overdrive. The rhythm section come on like a steamroller while bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel spits out the vocals, summoning a fire from within. It’s got all the spirit and attitude of punk, but with the Stranglers unique stamp on it.
‘No More Heroes’
The title track from the band’s second album remains one of their most identifiable songs. All of the key elements of the band’s sound shine brightly here. With lyrics about figures of history, including Leon Trotsky, William Shakespeare and Lenny Bruce, the song played somewhat on the punk motif of disowning the past. In the case, however, the title wasn’t a command but rather a statement of longing. The song surges along, never letting up in its three minutes of glory.
‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’
Topping our list of the 10 Best Stranglers Songs is ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself),’ found on the band’s 1977 debut LP, ‘Rattus Norvegicus.’ The song is classic Stranglers from start to finish. ‘Committed for insanity, crimes against the soul / the worst crime that I ever did was play some rock and roll,’ sings Hugh Cornwell, overflowing with venom. Dave Greenfield’s keyboards duel it out with some nasty fuzz guitar and saxophone, while the rhythm section, solid as ever, drives nonstop. ‘Grip’ was also released as the group’s debut single in January of 1977, and it’s as good a place as any to start the Stranglers story.