Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Stranglers - Dreamtime

I didn't think of vengeance.  Don't forget I loved you once

Dreamtime (1986) *1/2

The Trouser Press review of this album laments that, "There's hardly an identifiable trace of the once-great band in these grooves," and I suppose that I should simply concur and end my review with that eulogy in mind, but my readers expect a bit more in-depth analysis than that, don't they?  So I must perform my duties and not only willingly listen to this wretched nightmarescape one more time, but listen closely enough to develop some interesting things to say about the various tracks.  The sound is similar to that of Aural Sculpture, with tacky synths, drum machines, and intrusively peppy horns watering down the Stranglers' classic sound to bland, faceless '80s rock; but unlike the 1984 LP, there simply aren't enough halfway decent songs for the listener to bother beyond the opening track, "Always the Sun," which is far and away the strongest piece of music on here.  It's easily their best song since "Golden Brown," and has become a live highlight of their reportoire, but one great song does not a good album make.  "You'll Always Reap What You Sow," is a lush, pretty country-ish ballad with pedal steel added to the mix; "Ghost Train," the second single, is acceptable I guess, with Hugh singing a strangely Bono-ish tenor - it's good that he's learned how to finally sing conventionally, but who cares?  "Too Precious," is half a good song, but goes on far too long, and seriously, that's it - the rest of the album is worthless crap, the kind of facelessly generic "80s music" the teenage kids' band played on some '80s sitcom like Family Ties or Nickelodeon or something.  "Shakin' Like a Life," sounds like the freakin' Stray Cats in swing mode, for pity's sake, and "Big in America," seems to humorlessly parodize Johnny Cash's vocal style, but with a horn section splattered all over the perfunctorily chugging rockabilly.  1986 may have been historically one of the worst years for rock music, and the Stranglers live up (down?) to current trends.  "Look how the mighty have managed to fall," Cornwell sings at one point, and I couldn't have put it better myself.

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