The Stranglers

Aural Sculpture

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What an out and out shock. The Stranglers have gone sensual, sounding sincere, serene, and sensitive (and philosophically introspective). And it's perfect. It took 'em nine years, but they're at their peace now. Which isn't to say that this is preferable to putting on their first couple albums and early singles and rocking out to the sheer unrepentant, harsh rock of greats like "Hanging Around," "Straighten Out," or "No More Heroes"; but it sure is OK to veg out and dream along with these lithe little pop songs, with Hugh Cornwell now cooing instead of growling the likes of "Let Me Down Easy" and "No Mercy," and especially "Skin Deep." This stuff is almost as quiet and soulful as what the Passions have been up to, and that's what really surprises. And let's be honest -- the previous one or two Stranglers albums had some OK tunes but seemed stuck for new direction, so now they've finally settled on where they want to go after a decade of playing such harder music. You just never thought they could transition to this contrasting style so well.

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