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Someone somewhere (I can't remember who or when) once wrote that No More Heroes was "the angriest album ever recorded". That was something of an exaggeration, in my view; one or two much more furious albums do spring to mind. 'Contemptuous' seems to me a more appropriate adjective. Yep, 'contemptuous' sounds about right... as do 'filthy' and 'obscene'. All the more surprising then that in the autumn of 1977 this album got to within a hairsbreadth of the top of the UK Album Chart, and stayed there for months. These were clearly strange days.
No More Heroes was the second album released by the Stranglers, a band that came to prominence on the back of 'punk rock', though more by accident than design: the Stranglers weren't really 'punk' so much as just plain 'pissed off', though they managed to express their contempt for everything and anything in a far more witty, musical and literate manner than that of most of their peers, which quickly allowed them to soar free above the thrashing mob and plot their own eccentric course. The fearsome foursome had already been around for a couple of years by the time Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols outraged the nation by uttering the 'c' word live on tea-time TV, thereby causing three million half-chewed fish fingers to be sprayed simultaneously onto a million Axminster carpets. No, the Stranglers weren't punk. They were a whole lot more important than that.
Rattus Norvegicus had been the name of the band's debut album, that had appeared from out of the blue in the spring of 1977 and had quickly reached No. 4 in the Album Chart; no mean feat for the debut of a virtually unknown band, especially when we remember that in those days big-selling compilations (of which there were many) were included in the mix. 'Rattus' had been a gloriously dark and irreverent exercise in provocation - and many interested groups gleefully chose to be provoked, and to react (some things never change) - but it had been first and foremost a musical triumph and an exciting portent of things to come.
Yet in some ways No More Heroes was just more of the same, superficially at least: a number of its songs were dragged from the same boiling pool that had thrown up the contents of 'Rattus'. But if not an angrier album than its predecessor, No More Heroes was certainly more spiteful, more obnoxious, and it contained a few indications of where the band was going, musically. I never could quite decide which album I liked better. In terms of ballpark imagery, 'Rattus' had hints of dark delectable Parisienne sado-masochism whereas No More Heroes was just plain drunken English leg-over behind the boozer on a Saturday night. We are certainly talking about a very 'English' album here, for sure, but an England of litter-strewn streets, simmering discontent, straining tensions, and angry foul-mouthed politicised youth: 1977 and all that.
What set the Stranglers apart at that time, musically, was the way they balanced their resources to sublime effect (helped by Martin Rushent's seamless studio production): Hugh Cornwell's souped-up Telecaster rhythm and meticulous lead gelled perfectly with Jean-Jacques Burnel's thunderous Fender Bass, played at times like a lead, with the whole being achieved by Dave Greenfield's keyboard artistry - Hammond organ and Minimoog - providing rich layers of connecting sound that often took the songs down unexpected paths. Jet Black's immaculate beat completed the line-up. The vocal delivery (shared by Cornwell, Burnel, and occasionally Greenfield) was naturally hyper-aggressive and provocative, though tongues were rarely out of cheeks. In listening to No More Heroes again I can't help but think that the band was straining at the leash to break free but not before wringing-out the original repertoire one last time for all it was worth before departure.
No More Heroes is more than anything, sneer and smut aside, an indication of how attitudes have changed in thirty years, not so much in terms of people's prejudices but in the way we believe prejudice in others should be combated (never thinking for a moment that we might harbour a few of our own). Political correctness, well-meaning though it may be, has inadvertently made neurotic mutes of us all, and this wasn't how it was meant to be. Take 'I Feel Like a Wog', for instance, the first song on the album. I wonder how many readers instinctively recoil at the mere reading of the 'w' word. Quite a few, I would suspect. Naturally it's an ugly word that has always been used as an offensive weapon by bigoted souls and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but might not bringing it out into the open and holding it up for deserved ridicule, like this song does, be a more effective way of neutering its power than simply filing it away under 'Taboo' and padlocking the cabinet?
Musically, this first track conforms to a template shared by several others: an upbeat and pacey rhythm, with even the simplest song not content to start and finish without first taking a musical turn around the houses. 'Bitching' is a superficially simple and ill-natured thrash of a recording - "Got anything to say? No? Well, shaddup!" - that is also an indicator of how the band intensified its tone to suit the times: the original demo, recorded about eighteen months before, had been a whole lot quieter and more sedate. 'Burning Up Time', a live favourite of the period, is another direct song with a clever structure that betrayed the band's collective virtuosity, a virtuosity that would be more confidently displayed in the next three albums.
Yet songs like 'Dagenham Dave' and 'English Towns', despite their delivery, display a lyricism and reflective quality that were really quite touching, though at that time such qualities were prudently muffled by a blanket of 'attitude'. The first song - another live favourite of the day - is about the band's semi-legendary first fan, Dave from Manchester (he had worked at Ford's Dagenham plant, hence the affectionate moniker), who leaped to his death from the top of Tower Bridge one night in early 1977.
Late night a street in the west of the city
There was a place there where he lost himself,
Strange feelings did he feel there,
Strange people did he meet there,
Angry sounds did he hear there...
Like the howling of bulls.
Like the howling of bulls! What a wonderfully evocative phrase. Equally, in the overtly musical 'English Towns', arguably my favourite track on this album, we get:
There is no love inside of me,
I gave it to a thousand girls.
We build towers of saddened ivory
In our English towns.
A lyric that says so much on several different levels.
'Something Better Change' and the title track, 'No More Heroes', were the two singles released from this album and both were Top-10 hits. The first, mildly anthemic and with its iconic intro, was released as a double A-Side with the equally good 'Straighten Out', not included on the original album but added here. Another contemporary non-album recording released as a single was 'Five Minutes', also included here, an absolute brute of a song that reached No. 11 in the UK Chart early in 1978.
But what about the filth and obscenity? Well Vicar, two tracks stand out in this regard. 'Bring On The Nubiles' is a none-too-subtle and slightly insane track that was actually conceived as a joke. The Stranglers simply wanted to find out just how much EMI would let them get away with (a great deal, as it turned out). Musically, the song is actually a thumpingly good listen, but the lyric is relentlessly pornographic so it's not a song to sing loudly in the shower if the younger kids are in earshot (not that I could imagine anyone ever singing this in the shower). Rumour has it that a Susan Boyle cover might be in the offing. 'School Mam' is a seven-minute mini-epic of lyrical debauchery, backed by a sinister and pulsating rhythm, that made me laugh out loud when I listened to it again. It's outrageous. Safe to say it tells a passionate and disgraceful tale of unlikely couplings and acute voyeurism set within an educational establishment that clearly wasn't Grange Hill. This was a song designed solely to offend, which it managed to do with ease.
But probably this album's chief claim to relevance now is in how it points the way forward for those keen to track the musical development of the band. The two songs contributed (sung at least) by keyboard maestro and eccentric Dave Greenfield are most useful in this respect, as they were the most musically adventurous songs on the album and gave us back then a sneak preview of the expanded format the band would use for its next offering, the dark and definitive Black and White (May 1978). 'Dead Ringer' is an odd jarring track with an odd jarring lyric that simply asks three questions, the best of which is "Wasn't it you running round proud of being poor?", a lyric sung with exaggerated disdain. 'Peasant in the Big Shitty' is a really strange one; musically interesting, keyboards and complex offbeat especially, with a satisfyingly surreal lyric: "The day was sicky yellow, the nights were so untight, the cows go moo moo moooo, is everything alright?" This song more than anything was a portent of the 'blackness' (or 'meninblackness') that would obsess band and fans alike for the next few years and give rise not only to Black and White but also The Raven (Sept. 1979) and The Gospel According to the Meninblack (Feb. 1981).
No More Heroes is naturally of its time, and for today's bright young things it will only be of academic interest at most. However, it was a fascinating and enervating musical exercise that can still bear a listen or two and is still among the pick of the albums that seared the backside of that era so effectively. It's also a reminder of how much easier it was to 'let rip' in those days, a time perhaps when the urge for angry expression wasn't so effectively tempered by the fear of immediate (and calculated) condemnation by the equally fearful, as it is now. The fearless tone and directness of this album will probably raise an eyebrow or two in those who have grown up in the plastic bubble of political correctness and who might be listening to it for the first time. Yet that might be no bad thing; you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, after all. No More Heroes was an album with its heart in the right place, and that is all that really matters.
(Review previously posted on Ciao under the same username)
Back in 1977 when most bands were doing their utmost to prove how 'punk' they were, The Stranglers had actually been doing everything in their power to do the opposite. Though often categorised with the punk acts of the time due to the controversial nature of some of their lyrics and the type of aggression and vocal delivery that alienated them from pretty much every other genre, the band themselves never made any claims of likeness with acts like the Sex Pistols or The Clash, and were outspoken in their desire to not be classed as punk. Their 1977 debut album, Rattus Norvegicus also distanced itself from The Clash's self titled effort, Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols, Damned Damned Damned and the other 'punk' albums greatly through its sound. Dave Greenfield's swirling, Doors-on-speed like keyboards would have been suffice, but the fact that guitarist Hugh Cornwell, bassist Jean Jacques Burnel and drummer Jet Black were all accomplished musicians, and not afraid to show it spat in the face of punk's 'no talent' aesthetic.
Rattus also stood out in that all but 2 of its songs ran over 2 minutes, and displayed a wide range of influences making the album ridiculously hard to classify. Arguably the best description I read, from a random internet review, of its sound was "shockingly frank blues punk noir". The band released their follow up album, No More Heroes a matter of months later, and if those who bought Rattus expecting a punk album were shocked, those who bought No More Heroes expecting more of the same were given an equally large surprise when loading No More Heroes onto their turntable. It's a punk album.
While in many people still class Rattus as a punk album, albeit a very unique one, No More Heroes is a far more straightforward punk affair. While Greenfield's keyboards are still a predominant feature, in contrast to its predecessor No More Heroes boasts only 2 songs that go over 4 minutes in length. Couple that with lyrics which almost all relate to alienation, rebellion and rebellious figures, and all of which worded in as controversial a fashion as possible, No More Heroes is far from the most diverse Stranglers (well, proper, Hugh Cornwell-era Stranglers) record. In fact it's probably the most straightforward.
While this may seem like a negative, given that a big part of the band's appeal comes from their ability and willingness to experiment with their sound, what saves No More Heroes is the fact that almost all of its 11 tracks are in fact cracking tunes.
2 of them are probably more famous for their controversial lyrical nature than anything else, album opener I Feel Like A Wog being the clear eye catcher, but Bring On The Nubiles' tale of teenage girl loving and chorus laced with F-bombs is potentially more controversial. Once you get over the fact there is an all-white band throwing the word "wog" about you do realise the song is in fact, relating a sense of sympathy to black people who are the subject of alienation due to their skin colour. Granted it isn't presented anywhere near this straightforwardly, and it's undeniable the term was used just to draw attention to the song, but as the band were prone to doing, they have attached this attention to a song that is, in fact worthy of the attention on merits of its music. Burnel's trademark thick, pounding bassline is the focal point of the song, as was the case quite regularly in the early days, and its Greenfield's organ's sharp cuts in playing along with this bassline that give the song a nice menacing edge. The amusing thing is that Nubiles is probably the more questionable of the 2 lyrics, and had Mary Whitehouse wrapped her ears around this it probably would have made her head explode. Starting with "I want to love you like your dad" the song never veers into anything near radio friendly territory. Cornwell did point out in his book about his time in the band that there have been countless songs with lyrics as sordid throughout the years, he simply made what he was saying explicit, which is true, yet Nubiles didn't exactly start a trend for doing so. Once again the nature of the lyrics almost overshadow the music itself, and this would be a shame as it's actually a very catchy punk song. Burnel's bassline is still thick and intimidating, though less prominent this time, and Cornwell's sharp telecaster riff plays a bigger role in proceedings as it duels with Greenfield's organ for your attention.
The album showcases bassist Burnel's vocal talents on several tracks, sadly not displaying a great deal of variety in his vocal performances, relying on an in-your-face snarl to deliver his lyrics to attack-on-venues Bitching, fast paced and fun but ultimately disposable, Burning Up Time and the classic Something Better Change, though mixing it up a little with a more sincere tone for the band's epitaph to their deceased superfan in Dagenham Dave. A characteristic of Burnel sung-tracks is usually that his bass is less prominent, though this isn't the case with Something Better Change, arguably one of the band's finest songs, and a bona fide punk anthem. Starting with a nice guitar intro, before the keyboard joins in, coming to a head as the rhythm section bursts into life accompanied by a grunt. The bassline is arguably at the forefront of the song, a simple outburst of rebellion giving a 2 fingered salute to those who would dare try to look down on the band and those who followed them. It's an angry, powerful anthem that's just as good, and in fact many degrees better than any attempt at a rousing rebellious anthem than the Pistols managed.
Interestingly, Dagenham Dave is both the most upbeat song on the album and also the most genuinely sad. A bittersweet song celebrating the life, yet still mourning, albeit in a stiff-lipped fashion, the death of the first man to really get behind the band. It's Greenfield's chance to show what he can do on his organ, and a surprisingly bouncy track. Arguably the most commercial on the record.
Of course that's different from being the best song on the record. For that accolade it's hard to see past the title track, the other major anthem No More Heroes. It's probably Burnel's most conventional, understated bassline, and it works well because it allows both Greenfield and Cornwell to shine with their respective solos and competitive keyboard/guitar riffing. Both, as well as drummer Jet Black, are at the top of their game, and it's punk's most musically fantastic anthem by quite a distance, worth listening to right until the end where Cornwell and Greenfield really do seem to start competing riffs building up to a sudden stop.
The album also marks Greenfield's debut as a vocalist. His vocals make Burnel's snarl seem conventional by comparison. He has a brilliant sort of eerie, leering way of delivering his vocals that suits both tracks he delivers to a T. Dead Ringer is a sort of voyeuristic critique of people who changed their ideals and appearances to cash in on punk. Its built around Burnel's jumpy bassline, but Greenfield's vocals steal the show. His other vocal performance is arguably my favourite, mainly because the track actually seems written around it, Peasant in the Big Sh*tty. It's another downbeat, fairly menacing toned song, this team Greenfield's keyboards are the focal point, in particular one simple but effective riff that Burnel mirrors on the bass. Lyrically it tells the tale of a country boy moving to London and the alienation he finds, but it's the bizarre lyrics that make it so unique. It's hard to picture lyrics like "the days were sickly yellow/the nights were so uptight/the cows go moo-oo/is everything alright?" performed in a conventional manner.
The album closer, School Mam, based on Cornwell's time as a teacher, carries the clearest narrative. It slates the perverse, dominating nature of head teachers. It's another song with an overbearing feeling of menace, built up by Burnel and Greenfield's hyperactive work on the bass and organ. It lacks the instrumental tour de force that the album closer to Rattus had, but it still succeeds in sucking you in for its 7 minute running time, which is no mean feat.
The album's only real let down is English towns, a song penned by Burnel, but sung by Cornwell, perhaps out of inability to get over the uninspiring nature of the song. It plods along nicely enough, but it lacks any real defining feature or hook. It would have worked better as a B-Side.
While it may be an album straightforward in theme and sound, that of anger, alienation and fast furious musicianship, but the fact is, No More Heroes does that theme and sound well. Very well. I'd argue with anyone that as far as punk albums go, only The Clash is comparable to No More Heroes in terms of the amount of genuinely infectious and memorable anthems of rebellion. it may be far from the Stranglers at their most instrumental or creative best, but in terms of simple, powerful songs it's one of the most consistently strong albums in their repertoire.
Well, it has been over 2 months since I last submitted a review so I thought it was about time I put fingers to keyboard and write something. There is plenty I have wanted to write about but to be honest I havent felt overly inspired to do so. So, to get me back into the swing of things as it were I thought Id write a review on one of my favourite subjects, The Stranglers.
No More Heroes was the second album released by The Stranglers, in September 1977. It was hot on the heels of the successes of 'Rattus Norvegicus' (from hereon known as Rattus) and a couple of singles, more notably the big summer hit 'Peaches'. It was pretty well planned this way to keep the momentum and the interest going.
The not so big surprise for Stranglers fans was that like the first album, Rattus, most of the songs were already known and 'popular', as they were already part of the group's set(s) in their many gigs before obtaining their first record deal.
So, recording new material wasn't the main task here, just putting a collection of songs spanning 2 years onto vinyl and releasing them as albums was the priority. In fact there were 4 songs already written which were not included on Rattus, but were put onto 'No More Heroes' along with 7 'newer' songs. The difference between these first 2 albums was that whilst Rattus was a listener's introduction to The Stranglers (unless you were already a fan so you knew what to expect), No More Heroes sort of screamed 'We're here!' The other thing to note about 'No More Heroes' was that most of the album was a big 'up yours' to the media and critics, and was also designed to provoke.
There has been some criticism of this album generally stating that after Rattus this was quite a weak follow-up. If I was totally honest I tend to agree but then I also take the view that as a fan you dont really care what the critics say or even if an album is weak. As a fan all Im interested in is adding another of my favourite groups albums to my collection. Although I do have to admit that No More Heroes is one of The Stranglers albums I play the least.
Further, to be even more brutally honest, I think the 2 anthem songs, No More Heroes and Something Better Change carry the album and save it from even harsher criticism.
The album actually starts quite strongly with  I Feel Like A Wog - This is one of the songs that was designed to provoke. Many critics believed this song (without listening to it properly) had too many racial overtones, when actually in truth it is more anti-fascist and is actually about discrimination (generally) and exploitation. I really like this track as there is some excellent bass guitar work from JJ Burnel and Hugh Cornwell's delivery of the lyrics sets the tone perfectly.
The next 2 songs  Bitching and  Dead Ringer are okay but nothing to write home about. Pretty ordinary really but the band put some quite solid individual and collective performances in each of the songs. Next up is  Dagenham Dave - This song is the bands tribute to a long-time 'friend' and self-acclaimed No.1 fan (and probably was) who committed suicide. He was simply known as 'Dagenham Dave'.
The next song  Bring On The Nubiles was another song designed to provoke, and gives the good old 2-fingered 'V' salute to the media/critics because of their aspersions about the band being sexist. Actually it is quite a good song with some rather colourful lyrics, and some good keyboard work by Dave Greenfield. Not a song meant to be taken seriously, at all. This song was probably one of the first ones that I had ever heard with the f word included in its lyrics; apart from on Ugly on Rattus Norvegicus of course. Also as a teenager first hearing this song, especially when swearing in songs was almost unheard of in that era, there was a kind of novelty factor that made songs like this fun to listen to with a kind of danger value to it. I mean god forbid your parents should ever find out, and that kind of edge also made songs like this more appealing. It was that typical teenage rebel thing, you know what I mean, dont you?
Anyway, moving on now to one of the great anthem songs with  Something Better Change - Probably the next best known track on this album after 'No More Heroes'. This song also achieved 'anthem' status amongst Stranglers fans and punks alike as it fitted in to the 'teenage culture' and their usual anti-establishment stance/attitude. This track was also released as a single and did well reaching No. 9. How many of you remember the immortal line - ' stick my fingers right up your nose ' That says it all really, what a great song!
Now the title track and arguably greatest Stranglers anthem song  No More Heroes - Forgetting Golden Brown this great title track will probably be remembered most about The Stranglers by many people. This song has never failed to get audiences/fans involved and singing along. Absolutely marvellous song, and who could argue with great lyrics such as - 'Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? He got an ice pick that made his ears burn' You just can't beat that can you?
If any of you reading this remember my Norfolk Coast album review I said then that you can get No More Heroes as a mobile phone ringtone, which of course I did on my Siemens SL55. Since then however I have changed phones and now have a Sharp GX30 which sadly is unable to have that ringtone. However, when I did have it I was quietly surprised by how many people instantly recognised the song from the first few bars of the ringtone, showing how popular this song really is.
Now we move on to what I feel are the weaker songs on the album and they dont really match up to the standard I have come to expect from The Stranglers.
Starting with  Peasant In The Big Shitty - This isnt a bad song but it is a bit overly experimental with different sound effects and experiments with a voice synthesizer, which Dave Greenfield liked to do on quite a few occasions, especially in later albums. Then there is  Burning Up Time - A good old fashioned rock song, some good guitar, drum and keyboard work giving this song a pretty good feel but again its nothing special. For me the weakest song on the album is  English Towns - Hugh Cornwell seems to talk his way through this song with the occasional outburst of notes. A slow melodic type song, not one of my favourite songs at all, but there is some nice guitar work and 'swirly' keyboard effects.
The final song (on the original vinyl album version) is  School Mam - This is also the longest song on the album. It is sung almost like telling a story, the details of which I won't reveal because it is rather interesting and has a cheeky little twist. The guitar work is excellent and the keyboard effects by Dave Greenfield are good. Put that together with some clever sound effects to emphasise certain points in the 'story' and it all adds up to a good song.
However, I do have a slight problem with this song. You see staying loosely on The Stranglers apparent theme of ending an album with a stirring finale, well Im sorry but School Mam fails quite miserably when compared to the excellent Down In The Sewer on Rattus Norvegicus.
On the CD version there are 3 bonus tracks and they are the mediocre Straighten Out, the quirky and experimental song Rok It To The Moon and finally the excellent 5 Minutes.
A couple more things about this album include the distinctive sleeve design, the red carnation wreath picture that was likened at the time to a chocolate box cover! The original sleeve design was 'binned', as it was a photo of JJ Burnel led on top of Trotsky's 'tomb', but none of the other band members were in it, which sort of upset them a little.
My final thoughts on this album are that overall it is not a bad collection of songs and I am of the opinion that it was a way of clearing the decks. You see with the success of the first album the hook was in and very quickly a fan base was established. By quickly releasing this second album, and keeping the impetus, The Stranglers could start making the music they really wanted to, which is quite evident in the subsequent, and rather excellent, studio album Black and White.
If you are a fan then I would say this is a definite choice for your collection but to the novice then Id say listen to Rattus Norvegicus or Black and White first.
As the album is so old now you can buy the CD for as little as £5. Just put the album title through any price comparison site like kelkoo for example and you will see. Amazon on the other hand, if you cant be arsed with trawling such a site, are charging just under £6 for it.
Just six months - time enough for UK Top Ten hits in Peaches and Something Better Change - elapsed after Rattus Norvegicus before the Stranglers released their second album, No More Heroes, in September 1977. This reached Number 2 in the charts, while its fierce title track became a Number 8 hit single. No More Heroes was heavier and more acerbic than its predecessor. Its misogyny was nastier still in Bring On The Nubiles and Something Better Change, while the ghoulish Peasant In The Big Shitty, the baleful English Towns (There is no love inside of me, I gave it to a thousand girls) and I Feel Like A Wog offered dangerous visions of alienation. On a more personal level, Dagenham Dave paid homage to a faithful friend and fan of the band who had died. The Stranglers always were pretty beefy, nasty musicians who were mysteriously quite academic and nice people (well apart from Jet Black, that is, oh and Dave Greenfield, who looked a prat, oh yeah and JJ Burnel who was a bruiser, and Hughie Cornwell swore a lot - okay, okay, I take it all back). Rattus Norvegicus was a massive hit album and used up the bulk of their most popular songs leaving the quickly assembled No More Heroes looking distinctly second rate and unattractive - it was probably more accessible and easy to assimilate than the debut, but just came over as pretty damn insubstantial fare. There are good moments, but inevitably they just feel like fleeting moments and stuff like School Mam should never have seen the light of day - that they did is a bit of an indictment of United Artists who wanted to capitalise on their investment and the band themselves, who seemed to have little concern for quality control. They snapped back to form with the rather more expanisve Black And White album the following year, but it would probably have been better if they had waited for that one rather than making sure they got the full mileage out of their set. Judged next to th
eir debut set, No More Heroes is weak and unattractive, insincerely packaged, looking much more like a K-Tel rush release than a work of some substance, which the band would have wanted. The sound was still as sinewy and steely as the first set, but was lacking in inspiration. For the time being at least, the Stranglers were definitely just marking time. Nasty bastards...
I, Cookie36, have removed this, my opinion. Therefore it can no longer be rated unless you actually want to rate these few words of explanation. I have decided to do this for personal reasons and am hoping that dooyoo will delete this account. I feel I can no longer be part of dooyoo as I feel there is too much wrong with it and there are a lot of things happening here that shouldn't. However for those that still enjoy the 'experience', then... Happy Dooyooing!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Feel Like A Wog
3 Dead Ringer
4 Dagenham Dave
5 Bring On The Nubiles
6 Something Better Change
7 No More Heroes
8 Peasant In The Big Shitty
9 Burning Up Time
10 English Towns
11 School Mam
12 Straighten Out
13 Five Minutes
14 Rok It To The Moon