May 13

The Stranglers: “Skin Deep”

The Stranglers -- Aural Sculpture

The Stranglers try out the world’s
most ridiculous hearing aid.

Wow, another long quiet stretch. Sorry ’bout that…things have been a bit hectic lately! Not that they’re a whole lot less hectic at the moment, but I figured I’d better post before you all think I’ve abandoned the blog. (Which I most certainly have no intention of doing.)

But onward we go: The Stranglers, with their song “Skin Deep,” from their 1984 album, Aural Sculpture. It’s a song that really grabbed my attention when it came out early in my college years, and although in some ways the production screams “1980s,” the melody and performance are strong enough to muscle past that, strong enough to be what I consider one of the forgotten gems of that decade. The Stranglers were an odd bunch, rarely sticking with one genre long enough to be pinned down there — they ranged from punk to New Wave to goth (and beyond, I’m sure, though I never truly followed them beyond this album). A group that wide-ranging sometimes makes it hard to really gain a firm following, since you may have liked them for a particular sound they hit on, only to find that it’s basically a different group the next time out. Nonetheless, they certainly had their high points (including the classic and gorgeous “Golden Brown,” from the previous year’s Feline), and were able to make better use of synthesizers than many of their peers. That is, they tend to sound less dated and/or cheesy than many songs of the era.

The Stranglers play “Skin Deep” as a pretty serious and substantial song, but when it comes down to the lyrics, they sound deeper when sung than when read. They basically boil down to what you might expect from the title: watch out for so-called friends who aren’t really going to be there for you when it matters. A worthy message for sure, and singer Hugh Cornwell certainly drills it home with his growling intensity. If you want a great place to start with the Stranglers, Aural Sculpture comes highly recommended.

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