With this list, we look at the ten best Stranglers albums from one of the oldest bands birthed before punk as they were active in the 70’s pub rock scene before aligning themselves with punk when it came along. While it might be true that they probably are not full-on punk, they are still a favorite of many veterans of the scene who still buy their records and attend their concerts 50 years later. They have been an influence on many bands both in the punk and alternative rock genres.
The Stranglers first formed in 1974 in Guildford, Surrey. Their first album, Rattus Norvegicus was released in 1977 which was the year that punk took off, which meant that they fitted in well with this new musical phenomenon which was taking the media by storm. However, The Stranglers have never been limited to one genre, having dabbled in other styles such as Art Rock and New Wave.
In total, The Stranglers have produced 17 studio albums which have all entered the UK top 40, making them one of the most commercially successful bands to come out of the punk era. A massive turning point in the band’s career emerged when vocalist Hugh Cornwell left the band in 1990. This did not deter the band’s success too much however, as they have continued to release several more highly acclaimed albums in the years since. So, with that in mind, The Stranglers are a band with a lot quality material, but this is a top ten list, so let’s see which ones made it…
# 10 – 10
Kicking off the list is the aptly titled 10 from 1990. Cornwell’s last album with the band, it peaked at number 15 in the UK Albums charts where it remained for four weeks. The album was produced by Roy Thomas Barker and features extensive use of a brass section. One of the tracks featured is a cover of 60’s garage band Question Mark and The Mastrian’s hit “96 Tears” which managed to chart in the UK at number 17. Cornwall decided to leave the band after the record’s release feeling that the band were creatively spent. Ironically, whereas the other members have expressed negative opinions about 10, Cornwell felt that the result was a good one.
# 9 – Norfolk Coast
The band’s fifteenth album was released in 2004, six years after their previous record. It was the first album to feature Baz Warne on guitar, who made himself very welcome into the ranks by penning several songs. Warne’s entry into the band picked them up commercially, with one his songs, “Big Thing Coming” reaching number 31 in the Uk singles chart and thus being their first top 40 hit in over a decade. All of the album in general see’s the band regain their fuel after a slightly underwhelming period. Both bassist JJ Burnell and keyboardist Dave Greenfield do some pretty impressive things with their respective instruments. It was the last album to feature Paul Roberts on vocals.
# 8 – Giants
Next on the list is the band’s most recent album released in 2012. After the departure of Roberts in 2006 who replaced Cornwell in 1990, Burnell and Warne took up vocal duties themselves. The album plays around a lot with its sound, melding punk rock with several other styles, sometimes expanding on the sound of the albums that preceded and other times harking back to their 70’s roots. Tracks on it include “Another Camden Afternoon” and the excellent title track. It was very well received upon its release and took two years to make in between touring and playing festivals.
# 7 – Aural Sculpture
The album to take us into the second half of this list the band’s eight from 1984. With this album, the band took yet another U-turn, as it features much use of acoustic guitar as well as brass instruments. The album was successful, reaching number 14 in the charts and spawning three singles which included “Skin Deep.” By this point, the band had moved on a long way from their punk origins and with this album, they had mellowed out a lot. Stand out tracks on it include “Soul” and “Let me Down Easy.”
# 6 – La Folie
The band’s sixth album from 1981 saw them attempting to reclaim the commercial success that they were starting to lose. Producer Tony Visconti was apparently given instructions to “treat every song like it was a single” and this worked as the album spawned one of The Strangler’s most famous songs, “Golden Brown.” Despite its commercial intentions, the album looked set to chart rather low upon its release. However, thanks to aforementioned song which got all the way up to number 2 in the UK singles charts, the record itself managed to reach number 11 in the Albums chart.
# 5 – The Gospel According to the Meninblack
Released earlier in the same year as La folie, the sound of the band’s fifth album could not have been any more different as it saw them almost abandon the punk sound in favor of an almost progressive rock approach. The album is a concept record dealing with the subject of conspiracy theories involving aliens living amongst us whilst weaving in much biblical references. The album is very synth-based, with guitars taking a backseat on a lot of it. Despite not being a fan, favorite, Cornwell has stated that it is his favorite Stranglers album.
# 4 – The Raven
At number four on our Top 10 Stranglers albums list is album number four from 1979. This album deals a lot with of different topics such as heroin addiction with the song “Don’t Bring Harry” as well as several topical subject such as the Iranian revolution (“Shah shah a go go”) and genetic engineering (“Genetix.”) Controversially, the album should have got to number 1 in the UK album charts but only reached no.4 due to an error. The Police took their number one spot with an album that was not yet released, which led them to be mis-credited with sales of this album.
# 3 – No More Heroes
Next is the band’s second album, released just five months after the first in 1977. Among the material included on the record is the famous title track which is one of their most successful singles. The album opens boldly with the track “I Feel Like A Wog” which on the surface would be seen as racist, however, the band stated that this was not the case at all, saying that the title was ironic and was written from the perspective on someone in a racial minority. Other standout tracks include “Something Better Change” which was also released as a single and “Dead Ringer.”
# 2 – Black and White
At the number two spot is the band’s third album issued in 1978. This was an album that saw the Stranglers start to go more experimental, particularly with their approach to how they structured the songs. “Curfew” is a prime example with its unconventional time signature, and it shows the band moving very quickly on from typical punk music into more of the post-punk sound that was soon to develop. Despite its less commercially accessible approach, it was one of the group’s most commercially successful release reaching number two on the UK albums chart.
# 1 – Rattus Norvegicus
At the top spot is the classic Strangler’s debut released in the crucial year of 1977. As one of the biggest selling albums of the early punk era, it includes the band’s most famous song “Peaches” (a song that was considered sexist by some upon its release) as well “Get a Grip on Yourself.” The album was remarkably recorded in just one week with all the songs contained on it being a collection of numbers that the band had in their live sets at the time. It was highly successful when it was first released, reaching number four on the album charts and was one of the best albums of the year by the British publication the New Musical Express. In the years since its release, it has been considered an essential record in many top albums of all time lists.