|Released||1 April 1977|
|RYM Rating||3.71 / 5.0 from 3,041 ratings|
|Ranked||#80 for 1977, #3,804 overall|
|Genres||New Wave, Punk Rock|
Post-Punk, Art Punk
|Descriptors||sarcastic, energetic, vulgar, rhythmic, male vocals, rebellious, anxious, urban, psychedelic, raw, misanthropic, progressive|
- A2Goodbye Toulouse3:12
- A3London Lady2:25
- A4Princess of the Streets4:34
- A5Hanging Around4:25
- B2(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)3:55
- B4Down in the Sewer7:30
- a. Falling
- b. Down in the Sewer
- c. Trying to Get Out Again
- d. Rats Rally
- Total length: 38:57
- Hugh Cornwell
guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals
- Jean Jacques Burnel
bass, backing vocals, lead vocals
- Dave Greenfield
- Jet Black
- Martin Rushent
- Alan Winstanley
- Doug Bennett
- Benny King
- Paul Henry
sleeve design, art direction
- Trevor Rogers
lelandJan 05 2006The Stranglers—a foursome of misogynistic, dimwitted, hilariously thuggish, obnoxious bullies—had little in common with their late ’70s agit-punk peers. Rather than rhetorically seek a reversal of social injustices, the Stranglers were content to beat their chests and demand change for its own sake, agitation for the adrenaline rush of it, rather than for pre-scripted revolution. For their unapologetic vulgarity they were once privileged to have been referred to by the falsest “outlaw” of them all, Prick Jagger, as “stupid, innit.“ Unlike, say, Bono, they never vainly posed to re-adjust the social structure that was enriching them and propelling them into icons of anti-heroism.
When i choose to hear the Stranglers, whose circus-ey synth swirlings and genuinely bilious hostility far more accurately suit my fantasies of corporate-overthrow than a million Joe Slummers, i prance, impotently but intently, on the edge of a cathartic illusion that the cyst-uhm can be lanced, and that simple, primal anger can achieve it, no matter how questionable the results may obtain—and at least we won’t all have to go to work tomorrow, other than to grow our food.
Superficially Doors-ey, but it’s more direct in its moody menace, with a darkness that’s both cartoonishly ludicrous and suavely inelegant. No navel-reflecting poetic exertion, no Rimbaud-flavored angst—just bludgeoning, prolo-posturing disdain on the vocal, textual, and instrumental fronts. No conscious “self” other than that which ungenerous sex and territorial conquest can delude us to believe we can attain. And when they grunt, „christ ‘as tol’ ‘iz muthah, christ ‘e tol’ ‘uhh not to bothuh, cause ‘ee’s awvight in the city, cause ‘ees ayyy above the gvound, ‘ees jus’ ‘angin’ avounnnnn,“ it feels something like rage, and pitch dark whimsy.
Published kaasprodukteFeb 19 2010The Stranglers made a killing out of being politically incorrect. In this their debut they supposedly become the kings of all thing sexist…It was only after becoming ‘racists’ in their quickly released follow up that people began to realise that the band were exposing the pathetic nature of sexists / racists by taking on their personas’ almost as caricatures.
Do yourself a favour and google some of the stuff NME had to say about this band/album/sexism at the time and marvel at the fact that a supposedly reputable music magazine failed to see that a band who supported arch feminist Patti Smith on numerous occasions prior to ‘making it’ may not really have been sexists.
Music wise I am not the biggest fan primarily due to the rubbish impression of The Doors-ian organs which grate on my tits after a while…but lyrically this (although pretty tame nowadays) was kind of ‘out there’ at the time and as such still never fails to interest.
Published troyscholesDec 08 2007Chas De Walley the unrepentant music journalist of the time said of the great Rattus Norvegicus its ‘like a force nine gail of bad breath’. I say ‘Walley by name Walley by nature, where are you now and where is the defunct Sounds newspaper you wrote those pathetic words in ‘. Even one second-rate second-generation journalist in MOJO did not bother to do justifiable research and just like media sheep prefer to follow the herd instead of thinking for himself.
Anyway, rant over. Rattus Norvegicus was the outcome of material they had rehearsed 3 years earlier than the release date in the Summer of 1977. In places like the 1st Shalford Scout Group Chiddingfold Surrey they played the material that was to become the zeitgeist that rocked a nation of unsuspecting record buying public who were buying ABBA and ELO LPs by the million.
Rattus Norvegicus had artistic merit, the cover won NME best-dressed sleeve for 1977 due to artistic contribution of a certain Mr Paul Henry. Furthermore, the sleeve had pre-empted what was to be major concepts of Stranglers albums to come. A nubile child – No More Heroes, a throne and spears to the Vikings – The Raven a photo of a Maninblack – Gospel according to MIB and a black Cat to be central to the cover of the Feline album. All of these were props photographed in a big house in Blackheath Surrey to feature on the outside cover and inner sleeve of the LP. On a further note as a rebellious teenager, to my disappointment JJ was wearing make up on the album cover, he could have foresaw the early 1980s new romantic scene.
The name of the album was to be called Dead On Arrival, the Stranglers trying to cash in on notoriety and infamy. However, a change of mind occurred when empowerment by a picture of a rat told members of the band, to settle, for what is in Latin – the name for the common rat Rattus Norvegicus. It was the collective thinking of the four men to symbolize the rat and the problems it faces with survival in a harsh world contextualised with ‘you and me’ who have to confront our daily problems of life.
So, a brief explanation of each song is warranted to analyse the music and song writing material of this ground-breaking album?
Sang by Hugh Cornwell this is a song about revenge for an ex girlfriends infidelities. The gutter press misinterpreted the lyrics for misogyny. ‘Your way past your station beat you honey till you drop’ Hugh proclaims. Though, on the other hand, Hugh did confess his guilt for hitting a woman out of anger and remorse. To Hugh’s detriment with violence came guilt, shame and self-loathing. Dave Greenfields keyboards are prominent throughout most of this song and JJs base keeps pace with the drums but is turned down low in the recording to blend in with the cacophony of sound.
This song has a punchy bass opening, with JJs fingers doing overtime to get he chord sequences right. So, unusually Hugh sang JJs lyrics on this song to help him. The lyrics are inspired by the bands interest in the quatrains of Nostradamus, who predicted calamity for Toulouse akin to Hugh and JJs imagination of a calamitous nuclear explosion. Toulouse has been built on a fault line apparently. It is a popular myth that Goodbye Toulouse was about the band being banned from playing live in the town. In fact it relates to melancholy, the feeling of having to leave a place you like and you don’t want to leave.
A more classic punk vocal delivery London Lady sounds sneery it is the first song to be delivered by JJ. The chorus line ‘plastic straw when you’re of sick’ is damning of punk fashion circa 1977. If you wear man made materials you have to be sick to wear clothes made of plastic. London Lady reinforces the the damnation of woman who follow a shady existence of sleeping all day-becoming nocturnal night prowlers who experiment with drugs and sex.
Princess Of The Streets
The tempo is slowed down on Princess Of the Streets with JJs voice sounding sorrowful in parts of this song. The same theme of mysogeny in the form of ‘femme fatale’. She’s no lady she’ll stab you in the back’ the chorus exclaims, it can be imagined a stripper could do a great job to stripping to this number. The bass plods through this bluesy song emphasizing melancholic feeling of loss for a woman JJ once cherished.
The opening sounds of Hanging Around are pure genius. The tapping of Jet Black’s cymbals, the one chord wonder and development of the keyboard, the simple strumming of the guitar, the punchy bass notes, all of the instrumentation coming together at the right moment. Pure brilliance. This great end to Side 1 should have been a single but there was not the time to spare with the imminent release of No More Heroes later in 1977.
The theme of women is continued on the flip side. Peaches is another attack on woman who are somehow estranged from their sexuality. Hugh’s reference to ‘clit aris’ is his eccentric way of pronouncing the place where the female ‘G’ spot is located. It is one of the most recognizable Stranglers songs to those not familiar with their output. The highflying base line can be heard in many TV programs over the years. This song is also a satire of men looking at curvaceous girls on a sun drenched beach.
(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)
Abject boredom of being a member of a rock band, no money,no security, performing seldom constitutes the reality of rock life. A ditty that has Laura Logic’s base blaring out notes that take Grip away from the simplicity – back to basics ideology of punk. This single could have charted higher peaking at 44 but due to the ‘anti new wave’ irregularities of chart compiler BMRB it remained obscure to potential Stranglers record buyers. The continuous melody of the keyboards compliments the pop style of Grip.
A great aggressive JJ Burnel vocal delivery in contradiction with the rest of the song as the lyric declares ‘its only the children and the wealthy who tend to be good looking’ shouted out in the middle 8. A song about what represents attraction between men and women, hence attraction leads to sex, which leads to hate and name calling between the genders. Ugly is about observation, for example, the fat businessman who has the lovely Philippino girl on his knee briefly forgetting the contents of his briefcase whilst having a good time. At the end the cry of muscle power could be an attack on former Nazi conquest in Europe.
Down In The Sewer
One of Dave Greenfield’s favourite pieces of music of the Stranglers. It is the perfect song to end a classic debut album. Down in the sewer is divided into four component parts:-
1)Falling 2)Down In The Sewer 3)Trying To Get Out Again 4) Rats Rally
The sewer being reference to the ‘Smoke’ where they were brought up. This acid-punk induced classically influenced arrangement could easily be part of the late 60s West Coast garage scene. Not unlike the Doors in a sense but with the added ingredients of menace and aggression from the burgeoning UK punk/new wave sub-culture. Especially when performed live. At a time, pre HIV band members in London were sexually promiscuous. The lyric ‘gonna make love to a water rat or two’ may be significant regarding shagging in the hot summer nights of 1977. A great drum solo and entwining keyboards in Rats Rally is great and best captured at live performances to fully appreciate the song. To me, at the end of Rattus the sound of water going down the plug hole may refer to male ejaculation. Who knows.
This was a free single with limited copies of Rattus Norvegicus. can mean a lot of things to many people drug references, female sexploitation, female domination, living forever and the like. An outstanding record and a naive rhyme for a title, to good to be a free single.
The press at the time slated Rattus Norvegicus calling the band woman haters instead of looking at the record with an open mind and realizing it was just every day lyrical social commentary. That was the mistake of the media. All four members of the band contributed to this album with amazing musicianship and not great poetic lyrics but honest ones. of the way the creative lyricists in the band JJ Burnel and Hugh Cornwell wrote was only in a way the world is seen through their eyes at the time. They have the freedom to express themselves the way they see fit.
There is something stark yet beautiful about Rattus Norvegicus. Haunting bass and drums and the splendor of keyboards throughout the listen. To compliment the album, Hugh’s guitar will appear at odd times in the album which the listener can reflect on his unique eccentricity as a personality in the band.
I can be only critical of the track-listing. I thought Grip should have come after London Lady and Princess Of The Streets should have been the opening track of side 2. So adding to the up tempo beat of the initial side of the album. But hey the worlds not perfect for everyone! A definite must for all people wanting to hear one of the greatest albums of the 1977 UK Punk/New Wave explosion. With the classic Stranglers mark 1 line up. For me this was the best attempt to capture the time circa 1977 out doing the Sex Pistols and The Clash debuts albeit they were good debut albums in their own right.
wordmasterjNov 09 2020A defiantly odd act no matter what era they debuted in, the Stranglers happened to release their initial works in the midst of punk era Britain, and got themselves pegged as misanthropic thugs. But then again, snap judgments proved useless when it came to these guys, and furthermore, they could not have cared less. The album is a psychological tempest, going well beyond the mere question of what is or is not punk rock – leave that for simpletons like the Clash and the Pistols – instead focusing on the ins, outs, and battles of everyday street life. You know, stuff that actually mattered to functioning followers of the punk rock scene, most likely.
Dave Greenfield’s nimble keyboard work is the main musical anchor here, winding around everyone else’s trials and tribulations, thumbing it in the noses of societal norms – or even the norms of punk rock, as evidenced by the copious amounts of professional musicianship on display. The proper album even ends on a mesmerizing four-part epic reminiscent of progressive rock („Down in the Sewer“), while the 2001 re-issue adds three bonus tracks („Choosey Susie“, „Go Buddy Go“, a live version of „Peasant in the Big Shitty“) which are all worth hearing, and blend seamlessly into the fabric of the album itself.
CharlyF1954May 05 2020Today’s CD is “Stranglers IV – Rattus Norvegicus” by The Stranglers. Actually I played this last night – I am playing it again today and will just put together some thoughts on it. First of all, Hugh Cornwell was spot on when he said that Dave Greenfield – who was the keyboard player with The Stranglers until his death from Covis-18 on 3/5/2020 – “was the difference between The Stranglers and every other punk band”. But there was something else.
“Stranglers IV” was confusingly The Stranglers debut – it is better known as “Rattus Norvegicus” – The brown rat, It was released in January 1977 – and I bought it when it came out. For years I had not bought seven inch singles – but at some point in 1976, I had started again. I used to have all The Strangler’s early singles including “Mony Mony” by Celia & The Mutations – still might – I will have to check. Anyway back to “Rattus Norvegicus”. The reason I liked The Stranglers so much was because there were elements in their sound that reminded me of The Doors and Dave Greenfield was the main source of this. In fact listening to “Rattus Norvegicus” after all these years just brings it home how good he was.
But with a very big proviso which I will come on to later, the songs were great. The album starts with “Sometimes” and does not let up. The last track, by the way, “Down In The Sewer” is almost prog- The Stranglers may have been lumped in with Punk bands but I do not think – as was proved on later records – that they had any intention of being labelled. Jean-Jacques Brunel’s bass playing was certainly not punk and anyway, they were all about a decade older than most of their contemporaries. (Drummer, Jet Black, was his late thirties when “Rattus Norvegicus” was released.) In recent years, it has emerged that guitarist & singer, Hugh Cornwell had been in a school band with Richard Thompson – once of Fairport Convention and probably the greatest guitarist and songwriter to come out of this country. By the way, on Richard’s 70th Birthday Concert at The Royal Albert hall last September, Hugh Cornwell was one of the many guests and he and Richard did “Peaches” – which was a hit for The Stranglers and is on “Rattus Norvegicus” – something back in 1977 I would never have imagined.
My favourite tracks – although it is very much a complete album – are “Goodbye Toulouse”, “Hanging Around” and “(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)”. And this leads me to my problem with “Rattus Norvegicus” and that is the lyrics and I am not that concerned about the Donald McGill seaside postcard lyrics to “Peaches”. Clearly High Cornwell and J.J. Brunel were and still are very intelligent. I don’t think that there are many rock/pop songs that mention Ozymandias (“Ugly”) nor any at all that are about the destruction of a French city as foretold by Nostradamus (“Goodbye Toulouse” apparently.) And maybe the lyrics were truly designed to shock. But 43 years on “Sometimes” is still shocking as it is about violence to women. “London Lady” is pretty ropey as well. And as for “Ugly” what the hell is the line “It’s different for Jews somehow” about?
OK – so some would have it that The Stranglers were merely trying to wind people up and I know you can’t judge art of the past by the standards of the present but I was very much surprised when I played ”Rattus Norvegicus” last night and read the lyric booklet that comes with the 2001 CD I have. By the way, when the album came out, there was a free 7 inch single included. The tracks were “Choosey Susie” & “Peasant In The Big Shitty (Live) and these are included on The CD as is “Go Buddy Go” – which I have always thought of as terrific – it was the B Side of “Peaches”.
So – RIP Dave Greenfield. He truly made “Rattus Norvegicus” a brilliant debut. But as I have said, it is certainly of its time.
ZephosAug 17 2015Man these years right on the cusp of generational change produce fascinating hybrids don’t they. Increasingly I’m seeing the prime value of them as that, rather than the much trumped up early Punk. Early Punk is nice, but Era 4 really only got super swinging when both Post-Punk and New Wave came into their own. So aside from the Berlin products the neatest stuff is these things, these wonderful evolutionary extinctions that exist in strange limbos. Early Ultravox, the Tubes, Television, and for certain these guys. Their sound in a similar way can be summarized as Punk but not Punk, like forget nearly everything you know about Punk except the absolute basics. And then maybe you can approach what’s going on. This is the time before all that damn codification after all, before it was boringly decided that Punk would be defined as some mash up of the Clash and Pistols to be watered down and repeated dully forevermore. The Stranglers are described already as not really fitting the cliche being that they were generally older than their teens to say the least, and that in some way their sound seems a little more product of the 70’s. For my ears the gap between the rest of the 70’s and the new groups that cropped up in the last three or so years is massive, hell to some extent acts from Era 4 sound more modern and less dated than some stuff from Era 5 and oddly especially Era 6. Generally speaking I regard this as a huge positive and one of my reasons for loving and respecting this hallowed time period, but that historian part of me is a tad flustered about it. The change in style and sound is so abrupt quick and violent that it seems almost wrong, like I missed something. Going from an era where stuff sounded like the Eagles to in a few years music like Gang of Four, Devo, and Tubeway Army is surreal as crap. What I’m saying is these hybrid type bands are not only interesting aurally but also just appreciable in how they can bridge the gap between eras more smoothly. The Stranglers in particular are neat for this, as their sound contains strong elements of both sides and not in a track to track way either. Ultravox’s debut had qualities like this, but it was less mixed together. Here they are, and it sounds therefore like exactly that desired missing link. What’s more interesting is that it works extremely well. Not just in sounding neat either, but just by basic function of being a solid strong whammy of swaggering Proto-Punk. While people seem to enjoy throwing (positive) accusations of arty and so forth at them, that’s not how they come off. Frankly I think it’s more that because they sound so different from what became the established genre, it only SOUNDS arty by comparison. Even the eight minute medley that strongly ends the set sounds more like just something any old band might stab at in the mid-70’s, only made Punk taboo soon thereafter. Which further separates them from the pack! After all those other three hybrid entities I mentioned were definitely art-school to some extent or another, not so the Stranglers. A multi-angle appreciation? I like.
Highlights: Sometimes, Goodbye Toulouse, Hanging Around, Down in the Sewers
LejinkApr 02 2014I was trying to think of five words to describe this album and came up with with „crude“, „exhilirating“, „funny“, „pedestrian“ and most of all „unrepentant“. I’m not exactly sure how the Stranglers got lumped in with the whole punk / New Wave thing, other than they emerged at the same time and had a bit of an attitude, but no other emergent band of the time used keyboards like they did (a good thing) or could resort to at times such yobbish and misogynistic lyrics (a bad thing). They looked too old, were unashamedly sexist and certainly weren’t writing songs about anarchy or career opprortunities, but with superb production by Martin Rushent, remarkably also the producer of the 180 degree different Buzzcocks, they still managed to gatecrash the party.
On the whole the energy and drive of the music in this their debut album carries them through. Some of the tracks refuse to fly like „London Lady“, „Princess of the Streets“ and „Ugly“, all further afflicted with uncouth anti-women lyrics and yet on paper the most offensive lyric of them all „Peaches“, wins through with its outrageousness and frankly hilarious one-liners, its filthy bass-line, snarling guitar and organ-riff all putting the boot in too.
„Grip“ was the single that should have been massive and „Hanging Around“ was the single that should have been while „Sometimes“ utilises another unsavoury lyric to a poppier tune that they’d rework in the later song „No More Heroes“. The 7 minute plus closer „Down in the Sewer“ gets an extended intro and coda which only highlight the song’s bloatedness but the unusual time-signatures in „Goodbye Toulouse“ make it one of the highlights.
It’s possible to love and loathe the Stranglers at the same time, but it’s the blistering music I’ll remember on this album much more than the cretinous lyrics. The latter is all the more unpardonable when you consider that Hugh Cornwell could be an erudite commentator when he wasn’t falling in with the gang-mentality too often on show here.
What you hear though is what you get I suppose and the band clearly couldn’t care less about namby-pamby sourpusses like me carping from the sidelines. Take them for what they’re worth I guess but yet you still can’t imagine the late 70’s without their being around unlike other bands of the time I could but won’t mention.
trevor_mehchineMar 30 2008With more than two thirds of the album’s songs weighing in at over 4 minutes (including one passed the SEVEN mark!), it should be pretty clear this isn’t a run of the mill ’77 punk LP. Should they have clipped these arrangements? No – at least, not at the cost of the instrumental parts which feature some great playing from Cornwell and Greenfield. The former’s stabbing Telecaster never fails to deliver a compelling hook or a well-placed scale, and Dave’s keyboard work is (as ever) brilliant.
When the two work together – as in Hanging Around’s famous middle eight – you get some of the most exciting playing you’re ever likely to hear in rock music. Or pop – take your pick. The tunes are often good enough to fit in the latter camp, whilst the aggressive playing (I’m thinking here mainly of the really excellent bass sound) serves to place the LP in the former. Rushent’s production is great too, and he ensured that Burnel got the sound he needed – one that in conjunction with Dave’s keys, set the band apart from almost any other before or since. Back to Hanging Around for a moment – the intro is one of the band’s best moments; when JJ’s bass crashes in it’s obvious this track is going to deliver.
Despite these strengths there’re some serious weaknesses – such as when the old pub-rock roots become audible – e.g. the bluesy Princess of the Streets (although, again, Hugh’s solo is noteworthy and Dave turns in some shimmering sounds). Or in the case of failed experiments such as Ugly and most of Down in the Sewer (excluding the end section – Rats Rally – underscored as it is by an insanely good bass line, which the rest of the band quickly locks onto) .
More generally, this album hasn’t dated as well as it might have. So much is probably inevitable. That said, there’s still some excitement to be had – particularly if (for whatever bizarre reason) you’re into exploring the boundaries between prog and punk rock. The virtuosity and complexity of some of the playing on Rattus almost serves to place it in the former camp. „Pronk,“ anyone?
What really serves to age this album, and the follow-up, is some of the lyrical content. To suggest the band are guilty of mysogyny is extremely old hat – but it’s no less true. Take the opener. Lines like „Beat you honey ’til you drop“ aren’t exactly the epitome of gendered enlightenment. And on track 3, London Lady, Burnel unleashes some pretty unreconstructed invective. It makes you wonder whether, as the father of a daughter, he has some compunction about lines such as „Making love to the Mersey Tunnel / With a sausage have you ever been to Liverpool.“ In other words, coitus was like throwing a sausage up the Mersey Tunnel (this was apparently directed at Melody Maker journo Caroline Coon). Compare also some of the lines in Princess of the Streets. Cornwell on Peaches too. This latter, however, is probably more general in its intent, not wanting to be restricted to offending the opposite sex so much as middle class values in general. Track 3, side 2 – Ugly – provides the best examples here (and also fields an e.g. of zeugma, for those with an eye for such details – „being broad of mind and hips“). Here it is in all its glory (get ready to chant that very last phrase, and note too the anticipation of Burnel’s solo spiels in the first few lines – i.e. the b-side of Freddie Laker):
I could have read
A poem called
To her instead
I lived for the moment
It was a futile
I was here
And she was here
And being broad
Of mind and hips
We did the only
I guess I shouldn’t have strangled her to death
But I had to go to work and she had laced my coffee with acid
Normally I wouldn’t have minded
But I’m allergic to sulphuric acid
Besides she had acne
And if you’ve got acne well I apologise for disliking it instensely.
But it’s understandble that ugly people have got complexes
I mean it seems to me that ugly people don’t have a chance
It’s only the children or the fucking wealthy who tend to be good looking
An ugly fart
Attracks a good looking
Chick, if he’s got money
An ugly fart
Attracks a good looking
Chick if he’s got money
An ugly fart
Attracks a good looking
If he’s got money
It’s different for Jews somehow
I’d like to see
The two ugliest
People in the world.
When I say ugly
I don’t mean rough looking
I mean hideous
Don’t tell me that
Just know the truth
When you see it
Whatever it is
Don’t forget – these were times when conservative bodies such as the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (Mary Whitehouse’s vehicle to safeguard standards in media and broadcasting etc.) were still strong. Whilst punk’s attempts to critique such bulwarks were entertaining and indeed, much needed, some of The Stranglers’ efforts to épater le bourgeoisie were clumsy as fuck. Worse still, their sexism was incredibly reactionary and negated whatever positive effects could’ve been brought about by their more widely focused shock tactics.
On a more superficial and general level, it’s difficult to deny that Rattus is an interesting listen. It could almost be described as gothic. Gothic?? Wtf. I’m using the term in an extremely lazy and uninformed way – I just mean that the record has a dark edge to it, right from the start. For instance that half-lit sleeve with the tints of orange and green – it does seem to capture something of the sound. The band certainly aren’t afraid to get down and dirty with the minor part of keys and scales. I do wish though that Rushent could’ve made more of the drum sounds throughout – too often they’re merely percussive without being explosive. There’s a ticking, rinky-dink feel where what we needed was hefty thumping to match the aggression in the bass sound.
GrampusJul 15 2007Where does one begin with an album like this? The Stranglers were never punk no matter how many „best of“ charts try to tell you differently. Instead they re-incarnated garage rock and roll and elevated it onto a new plain. At the time I was disappointed to discover the single „Go Buddy Go“, which had first drawn me to the band, was not included but, as they ripped their way through the opener „Sometimes“, I forgot all of that. Throughout the combination of looping organ and pounding bass provides for a stirring ride, couple this with Hugh Cornwell’s sardonic and sarcastic vocal and Rattus Novegicus becomes something precious.
I read some strange things about this album when it first came out. The music was (and still is) being favourably compared to The Doors and the musical arrangement for „Down In The Sewer“ was being praised for its classical approach. The problem was, at the time, I hated The Doors with a vengeance. I just couldn’t see how they had risen to such a venerated position. That opinion has toned down a little over the years but, at the time, it nearly stopped me from buying this – and that would have been a tragedy. In the end I bought it because I decided I liked it because I liked it – and, when it comes to music, that’s pretty much been my philosophy even since.
Yes, you can argue that some of the lyrics are distasteful and misogynistic but that accusation can be levelled at a great deal of other music around at the time – and certainly since. „London Lady“ drips with contempt. „Peaches“ has one of the finest bass-lines ever. „Grip“ contains some crazily patterned keyboards. „Hanging Around“ revels in a contemptuous vocal and „Princess Of The Street“ combines all of the above.
The only reason this album isn’t five stars is the track „Ugly“ which is silly and unengaging – although Greenfield does another great job on keyboards. Most people suggest a Greatest Hits collection as the starting place for those new to the band. My choice would be Rattus Novegicus because, if you don’t like this chances are you won’t like The Stranglers.
astradyne2Dec 14 2003Widely classified as punk, Rattus Norvegicus actually had its roots in Sixties rock. Hugh and the boys were older than most ’77 era punks, and the Doorsy songs make that clear. Great singles of varying tempo fill side one, and side two closes out with the four-part suite „Down in the Sewer.“ The end rocks out like crazy, something the Stranglers would never do quite like this again.
Sexism is present, but very tame compared to modern-day standards. And yes, the lyrics are eternally moronic (especially J.J. Burnel’s) – but often in a hilarious way. Recommended to all fans of rock. The only other weakness on this album is Dave Greenfield’s unimaginative keyboard playing. It is fairly decent for the most part (where the simple riffing is vital to moving things along), but the solo he put down near the end of the first song, „Sometimes,“ sounds like a poodle drumming its paws on the keyboard. His style consists mainly of running his fingers up and down the keyboard, which usually does fit in well with the other instruments.
J.J. Burnel’s bass playing, on the other hand, is so great it seems to carry most of the album. He and lead guitarist Hugh Cornwell split lead vocal duties. Hugh’s guitar actually serves more as a backing rhythm instrument than as the type of cock-rock lead axemanship one would expect from a macho misogynist band.
Other key tracks are the bluesy „Queen of the Streets,“ „London Lady,“ „Hanging Around“ and „Get a Grip.“
Okay, now a few words about that line in the opening song („beat you honey ’til you drop“). Is there any way to defend it here in the 21st century? Not really. But I prefer to keep my righteousness powder dry for what goes on now. And unlike ten years previous to 1977, when certain Beatles weren’t that opposed to using a little force to keep the ladies in line („I used to beat her and kept her from the things…“), the Stranglers were employing, numerous times, shock tactics for publicity.
They weren’t really punks, of course, but being lumped in with them gave them a consciousness that must have wondered why, initially, if punks are so bad-ass, why aren’t they more controversial (Pistols excepted?). Cue the sexism, racism, profanity, concert strippers, hard drugs, etc.
By the early Eighties, the Stranglers were properly respecting women in their music. They had grown up. But just be warned that if you play early stuff by this band, you might have some explaining to do.
virgilhiltsSep 29 2002_Rattus Norvegicus_wasn’t one of my first introductions to The Stranglers,but on hearing a little snippet of „Hanging Around“,I was instantly hooked by the unusual and astounding use of the bass guitar(JJ Burnel-what a genius.)Now this was way back in 1979,during my teenage adolescence,and so I decided to try and get a copy of the album,in order to find out if this snippet was a one-off.Once I’d got a copy and slapped it on the turntable,I couldn’t believe the aural majesty that was swirling around my ears,ANGRY PSYCHEDELIA!!!
Although short in length(only 9 songs),every track was a cornucopia of incisive lyrics,growling bass,quirky guitar,cathedral keyboards and the most offbeat drum signatures ever to be heard on a so-called „Punk“ album.My favourite tracks on the album would have to be „Goodbye Toulouse“ with the crescendo-building organ intro,“Hanging Around“ with the masterful bassline and „Ugly“ with it’s nasty,though ultimately humorous lyric.Even though it’s been over 25 years since this album came out,I still get the same joy and pleasure out of it that I first did.Let’s go down in the sewer!!!!