Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
With the release of their seventh album on new label Epic Records, legendary punks The Stranglers wanted to shake things up a bit, exploring new sonic territories and pushing their own boundaries.
To say it must have been a surprise to those at their new home would be an understatement but they, as did the fans, released that this was one band unafraid of moving forward and so it was with ‘Feline’. Now re-released in gorgeous red and translucent marbled double vinyl, this 40th anniversary edition provides an ideal opportunity to reacquaint yourself with this, to some, seismic shift in their path.
With a much heavier use of synthesisers and electronic drums, ‘Feline’ delved into much more of a modern European sensibility than before, keys player David Greenfield a more dominant force in the mix.
Also here was a heavier use of acoustic guitars, the whole adding a bit more pastoral colour to the whole, the album a less snarling entry into their catalogue The critics didn’t know what to make of it at the time, the reviews mixed, but it was solidly embraced by the fans and sold better than previous release ‘La Folie’, despite the 1981 album having the massive ‘Golden Brown’ on it.
From the moment the mesmerising cool of ‘Midnight Summer Dream’ snaked its way out the speakers, it was clear that this was new territory, the electronica infused ‘It’s A Small World’ feeling really ground breaking at the time.
As well as the distinctive tones of Hugh Cornwell, Jean-Jacques Burnell takes lead vocals on single ‘European Female’, the smooth vibe of the song suiting the exotic approach, Burnell’s ability with the bass properly highlighted on the burbling and upbeat ‘Ships That Pass In The Night’ that came before it.
Whilst this was still very much a Stranglers album, anchored by Jet Black’s swinging drum style, there’s a wilful and mischievous continental feel here too, the atmospheric ‘Let’s Tango In Paris’ and the backing vocals of Anne Von Stern and France L’Hermitte on ‘Paradise’ placing it squarely away from their Guildford roots.
With a zeitgeist catching ‘All Roads Lead To Rome’, keys wizardry of ‘Blue Sister’ and grand closer ‘Never Saying Goodbye’ dazzling with its mix of instrumentation and sounds to startling, sometimes almost jarring, effect it was the band at their most experimental.
For those lucky enough to get the initial batch of ‘Feline’ when initially released , the unique and arty ‘Aural Sculpture Manifesto’ single sided single is amongst the reproduced wonders squeezed onto the second disc of this new set. Along with different mixes, this second slice of vinyl includes the pairing of the lush duo ‘Savage Breast’ and ‘Pawsher’ and the reggae tinged ‘Permission’ to further enhance listening pleasure.
All in all, it’s a fascinating snapshot of the band at the time and something that may lack the immediacy and fire of their previous work but certainly bears repeat plays to absorb all that is going on here. A thing of its own curious beauty, this new two disc edition of ‘Feline’ should find its home with many a lover of quality music, seeking something just a little out of the norm. Always leaders, never followers, The Stranglers remain a gem in our cultural heritage.
Introducing the 40th anniversary remastered edition of Feline
This was the band’s seventh studio album and the first since moving to Epic Records, reaching #4 in the UK Album chart. Feline is now available, courtesy of BMG, on limited red and pink transparent double vinyl and 2CD edition both featuring a wealth of bonus material from this era of the band.
Pre-order here https://stranglers.tmstor.es/