1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#13: The Stranglers – 10 (1990)
The last gasp of the original Stranglers lineup, 10 is an execrable, lame and indefensibly weak way to bid adieu, writes MAT KELLY.
The Stranglers made it 10 albums without a lineup change; not a bad run. However, between this and 1986’s Dreamtime, Hugh Cornwell recorded a solo album, and the rest of the band formed a project called The Purple Helmets (just when you thought Stranglers was a classy name) which played old rock ‘n’ roll covers.
This approach carried over when The Stranglers reconvened for a new LP – 10 features versions of ’96 Tears’ and ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ which were both top 20 hits as well as musically redundant.
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This signalled that inspiration was ebbing and it came to a head when during the slow, toxic sessions for 10, Cornwell suggested that Burnel couldn’t write songs anymore. An altercation allegedly broke out during which actual black-belt Burnel is said to have thrown Cornwell into a wall. Burnel denies this happened but whatever the case, once the dust had settled from 10, Cornwell was gone and the split was deep enough that 30 years on Jet Black remarked that Cornwell has yet to speak to or see his former bandmates again.
But is the album born out of this tempestuous time worth… Oh bugger it, of course it isn’t. Look at the throwaway title and the inexplicable, “hilarious” artwork of the band dressed up as world leaders. Listen to the shitty, cheesy dime-a-dozen keyboard riff that opens ‘Someone Like You’, and the album’s indefensible lyrics.
“There’s plenty of room on the tailgate/
Let me taste your honey child” – ‘Let’s Celebrate’
“Hey man, I like your beard
And I like the way you serve that beer
I like the way your daughter smiles at me
I got two big balls, a cap and a bat
And I like to play with them all the time” – ‘Where I Live’
I wish I was making this up.
The music better be really good to get away with this bullshit, and spoilers, it isn’t. ‘Let’s Celebrate’, ‘Where I Live’, ‘Too Many Teardrops’, ‘Someone Like You’ and ’96 Tears’ all sound like a wedding band your lame uncle plays in: thin, dated, annoying. When you hear an ear-offending mess like the chorus of ‘Out Of My Mind’, it’s hard to fathom that this was produced at all, let alone by a veteran like Roy Thomas Baker.
There are a couple of bright spots. ‘Sweet Smell Of Success’ is catchy enough, ‘In This Place’ is a more thoughtfully written song with some emotion in the vocal (though it still has to fight its noisy production), and ‘Man Of The Earth’ is a pleasingly simple piece of jangle-pop.
However, they don’t come close to making up for the wretched creative bankruptcy of the rest of the album.
The sort of record a band makes before falling off the face of the earth, the post-Cornwell Stranglers had their work cut out for them if they wanted to survive.