1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#12: The Stranglers – Feline (1983)
The bad boys of rock’n’roll complete an appallingly swift transformation into a bad pop band on Feline writes MATT KELLY.
Jokes aside, with Feline, The Stranglers genuinely do something I didn’t think they had in them: they try to sell out, spoiled by the success of ‘Golden Brown’. Across their previous records, there’s an admirable sense that they don’t give a fuck if you like what they’re doing, whereas Feline is a sad and unsuccessful attempt to climb the charts with a disc of moody late-night cigarette synth-pop intended to do well in Europe.
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The problem isn’t that they’ve gone pop – La Folie had a lot of pop on it and that was a decent album. But La Folie had spark and unpredictability whereas Feline is a flat, lifeless slog.
Hugh Cornwell’s vocals are the worst of his career, droning and unsuited to the slick production. Greenfield’s once-delightful playing has been sapped of its personality, his parts mechanical and without flair. And you’d be forgiven for wondering if Jet Black was even still in the band with his shitty, annoying drum machine beats on almost every song. Burnel doesn’t escape unscathed either – listen to his comically weak vocals on the oily, thin ‘European Female’.
And if you think that’s bad, check out ‘Paradise’, a tepid, hilariously unsuccessful attempt at tropical cross-over pop with abysmal singing and corny production. The stinkers just keep coming – could Cornwell’s wonky, miserable moan on ‘It’s A Small World’ be less charismatic? Could its backing track sound more generic? And everywhere you go, that nasty, cheap drum sound.
There are a couple of relative highlights – the mournful waltz of ‘Let’s Tango In Paris’ and the lengthy, bummed out spoken-word piece ‘Midnight Summer Dream’ have some appeal and atmosphere, but they’re far from album-saving quality.
Most of the record is frustrating, illustrated by how ‘Blue Sister’ starts well with swirling keys and a pulsing bass but falls apart with crappy vocals and a melodically poor chorus complete with bargain-basement synth sound.