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Aural Sculpture

Aural Sculpture
CAD9.14

Lapsed punks growing ever more melodious and increasingly less malign, The Stranglers’ aptitude for a genuinely shrewd pop tune probably reached its apex on 1984’s Aural Sculpture, arguably the last great album to feature the band’s original line-up as well as the first to feature a three-piece brass section (including future Propellerhead Alex Gifford on tenor sax). Although the horns didn’t go down too well with some of the rancid punk fundamentalists in The Stranglers’ audience Aural Sculpture endures to this day as a brave conjunction between synth-led Europop and proximate blue-eyed soul, appetisingly wrapped-up within a temperate mainstream pop frame and abetted by Laurie Lathams’ clean and lustrous production work. Highlights include the very untypical "Mad Hatter" (doo-wop with vibraphone and trombone), the brilliantly minimalist hit single "Skin Deep", committed Europhile JJ Burnel’s ruminations on the state of post-war Europe on the chilly "Northwinds’ (a candidate for best-ever Stranglers song) and other morsels of fine pop craftsmanship such as "Ice Queen", "No Mercy" and Hugh Cornwell’s "Laughing" (a tribute to the recently murdered Marvin Gaye, whom The Stranglers had hoped would produce this album). The bonus tracks include all the attendant b-sides, including–sung by JJ in an Americanised Radio Moscow accent–the ongoing diary of our dissident Soviet chum Vlad on "Vladimir And The Beast" ("only in the world’s greatest socialist democracy can one hope to be forgiven for losing temporary sight of the aims and goals of the Marxist Leninist revolution, two years it took me to be cured of my illness"). Lovingly remastered, with excellent sleeve notes from Strangled magazine contributor Nik Yeomans, this re-issue does both Sony and The Stranglers proud. –Kevin Maidment