The Stranglers – Dreamtime (1986)


Looking at the lyrics of this mini concept album i cant help wondering if it was Hugh Cornwells idea to write about ancient culture. The Dreamtime is an ancient Aboriginal mode of thought that describes the „Dreamtime“; which explained means that life was but a dream before life existed.  What a thought indeed!

This album i purchased in 1986 with great excitement after the two year drought from Aural Sculpture. And of course, immediately, i enjoyed the album. What grabbed me was the front cover of Dreamtime with the „Aboriginal Dance“ concept of tribal tradition. Anyway i will start with the first track Always The Sun. This album perhaps portrays the uniqueness of the Stranglers.


Always The Sun.

The album kicks off with the hit single Always The Sun. An ode to the Aborigines worship of the Sun. In the first verse the importance of sharing things between others is paramount. Hugh talks these wise words and then sings with JJ on backing vocals and also in the chorus. Optimism hits a crescendo with the chorus „Always the Sun“ which shines each day in life so’s to speak.


This track is a bit of a plodder, nice instrumentation in a lazy style. Sounds a bit depressing with again the idea of sharing which is central to third world Aboriginal culture. Hugh sings „share my dreamtime“. The beat is kept well by Jet Black and JJs bass as ever drives the song. Some nice keyboard in the middle 8 and some simple guitar chords interspersed throughout. However the mix is rather dull.

Was It You?

This song has an uplifting feel with the brass creating an extra sound. It is a song about paranoia, it has nothing to do with anything else. JJ blaming everything from politics to war and drugs to religion on a certain someone. Could be anyone. Thunderous drumming adding to that feeling of doubt and loss. But again that feeling of fighting back ends the song on a positive yet insincere note!

Ghost Train.

Love the start of this song with the steam train arrangement pumping through to the end. On listening, the engine train pumps throughout the song giving a mechanical breath of life. Furthermore, there is great rhyme in the lyrics „the driver is blind when there’s snow on the line he gets hard of hearing in the cabin when the weather is fine“. Wordsmith extroadinaire the Stranglers indeed can be. Very surreal song about ghosts that come back to life which may be central to Aboriginal gnostic beliefs.

Nice In Nice

This is a pisstake of the band members being arrested because of the French Police belief that the group incited a riot due to power failure at a gig in Nice. A „nice“ commercial ditty made them money from their bad experience in a rat infested jail down South of France. A nice pleasent pop tune about the material girl that offsets the lousy night the band had in jail. But the theme to me is girl power! And as the Stranglers write everything will be alright sooner or later.

Big In America.

An uplifting song and a quite nervous song sung by Hugh about being big in the biggest country in terms of wealth and power! The Trumpet seems to add to the power of this ditty. Somehow Hugh seems to want to take the mickey out of USA. It seems in a way to be a return to the mickey taking on the Raven’s Dead Loss Angeles. I love it! A lot of credit should be given to the Horn players Alex Gifford, Hilary Kops and Martin Veysey. In the chorus Hugh returns with his great confidence „Big In Americaaaaa“. No more can be said!

Shakin Like A Leaf.

Another single lifted from the album and as a result the single didn’t do great in the charts. A deep vocal and a punchy bass seems to start from beginning to end of the song: peppered with the horn section creates a bit of a stomper of a song. Determination to succeed is key for the meaning of the lyrics, maybe an ode to the survival of the Aborigines in „their“ Australian homeland.

Mayan Skies

This is my favorite track on the album but it diverts the theme of Abo culture to the culture of Mayan people that lived in what is now called Mexico. It reminds me this track; of colour nice colours red in the sky, and the psychedelic Hugh’s view of yellow and gold sky. He was on summat in the mid 80s ha! But what is most uplifting is Dave Greenfield’s keyboards a quite beautiful sound indeed. For me all the mix worked for this penultimate track.

Too Precious.

Great chorus. A confused lyric and a negative one. This 6 minute track is a representation of how the group work well musically. Convoluting melodies which go up and down the musical scale with bass notes, guitar chords, and keyboard all brought together with Jet Blacks tympanic instrumentation.

The Stranglers - Dreamtime - Booklet (8-8) Collage

All in all not a bad effort from the Stranglers. This was, of course, the 1980s and the Stranglers brought musical diversity to that decade from the old pub-punk rock days of the late 1970s. I described the album a mini concept album for an ode to ancient Aboriginal culture. I don’t think all the songs share that view. However, a worthy piece of work but not up to the standards set on the first 4 studio albums.

troyscholes Jul 23 2009

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