The Stranglers is one of those bands that got stuck with the punk tag because of the mass confusion on where to place them on the pop music map when they first bubbled forth from the gash that let British punk into our plane of reality. Not really the critics' fault, Brits have an insatiable need to categorize things from the get-go; plus, they didn't have the net so they could troll around blogs to find hairy missing-links which only five people heard one summer in a German garage (Looking at you, Monks).
For all intensive purposes, there's not an awful lot of punk sonics here. I mean, there's a fucking keyboard that shits out lines that sounds like Ray Manzarek chasing a coked-out figment across the plastic ivories. That, and their output was oddly progressive, something that punk was set loose to destroy.
Of course, The Stranglers were born in the back of pubs. Instead of Buzzcocks, they sound like Brinsley Schwarz; just a bizarre-o version that wants to fight and fuck everything. But, maybe that's where the punk comes in, with the attitude and the inside joke-esque sense of humor. They sounded tough and unbalanced, like taking the idealized verison of David Yow to a pay-only-for-what-you-don't-vomit bar. The classic example of a band you'd think twice about seeing the flesh and basing that indecision on their recorded output alone.
Ah, but the contradiction was that they never wanted to pass up a golden pop nugget. Goodbye Toulouse was their earliest, before they'd chart a sweet lil' ditty abut heroin. Still muscular, still dangerous, yet the kind of broken down dangerous that has spent a moody night looking through a beer glass. The pulsating bass line, which is oddly NWOBHM all things considered, provides the foundation for a distinctive and dreamy sandwich of fuzzed out keyboards and guitars. Then, the chorus. Layered vocals deliver a hook so big one could use a blue whale as bait. And, while foobar is promising me that it lasts a smidge over three minutes, it's gone as soon as it walked in the door, leaving a krautrock explosion to echo throughout the rest of your day.
In my mind, it's the best thing they ever churned out, the sole reason I'll reach for Rattus Norvegicus before anything else in their samey-sounding oeuvre.