On 3rd MarchBMG release The STRANGLERS‘ 40th Anniversary Edition of FELINE.
FELINE will be available as a limited double album on remastered 180g Heavyweight transparent pink and red vinyl, housed in a newly created inner bags. The 2CD digipackfeatures exclusive booklet artwork and a new appreciation by the band’s biographer and journalist, Chris Twomey.
Originally released in January 1983, FELINE is The STRANGLERS‘ seventh studio LP and was their first for then-new label, Epic.
1982 had proved to be a very good year for the band. The last three singles released for former label EMI had been more gentle and of a mellower-nature than anything their audience had been previously accustomed to. So when FELINE landed, it perhaps shouldn’t have been such a surprise to both fans and critics alike that there was such a perceived musical shift. Hugh & JJ‘s acquisition of acoustic guitars from a now world-renowned guitar maker in Bristol helped shape FELINE into becoming possibly the nearest thing to an “unplugged” studio album the band have yet made. Gone were the powerful, sinister, throbbing melodies of their New Wave sound and in came an extraordinary and, at that time, hitherto-unheard mix of acoustic and electronic delights. Having said that, from the black panther on the sleeve to the underlying melodies of the record, underpinned by that unmistakable growling bass, the band still managed to convey their dark, menacing, moody, slightly unsettling and quietly threatening no-nonsense persona.
Much of FELINE was written at Jet‘s house – a disused railway station in Gloucestershire – and as soon as the band were free from the shackles of EMI, Epic arranged for them to decamp to ICP Studios in Brussels for all of September, 1982 to record it. It was produced there by the band with Steve Churchyard (Big Country, INXS, Taylor Swift) and mixed by Tony Visconti (Bowie, T-Rex).
The album was preceded by the gloriously-beautiful and breathy JJ-sung EUROPEAN FEMALE, which immediately fired the band back into the UK’s Top 10 Singles Chart. As the single peaked, the album crashed into the UK charts at number 4 and neither they nor the suits at Epic could have imagined a much better start to life at their new label. In fact it got better, as this new mellow sound struck a chord with European audiences, particularly in France, where FELINE effectively broke them to a much bigger audience; one they still enjoy to this day.
Two further singles were released from FELINE. The mighty album opener, MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM, a melody of JJ‘s with intoned dead-pan lyrics from Hugh, following a grand symphonic opening from Dave, was released in late February 1983. Both the 7″ Edit and the magnificent 10½ minute Special 12″ Mix feature amongst the tracks on the bonus LP/CD that comes with this 40th Anniversary release. At the end of July ’83, PARADISE was released. Again sung by JJ, he wrote it after an uncomfortable holiday he’d hated in the Seychelles because of his discomfort with the poverty that surrounded the luxury in which he was staying. Fact fans: it is the only STRANGLERS‘ single that features voices from beyond the band, as backing vocals were provided by JJ‘s then-girlfriend Anna von Stern and France L’Hermitte (of Belgian band Polyphonic Size). The 7″ Edit that appears on Side 3 is surprisingly scarce and has only once previously appeared on vinyl. It has only otherwise been commercially available on The Hit Men 2CD compilation from 1996.
Both the bonus LP and bonus CD on this 40th Anniversary release feature the same tracks; a mix of B-sides and rarities.
The bonus tracks start by gathering the three 7″ single edits and a couple of B-sides from the period. The EUROPEAN FEMALE Radio Edit was a surprising find, in as much as it was only re-discovered in 2018. Other than providing the 7″ radio promo serviced from late 1982, the tape had lain gathering dust in Sony’s vaults, overlooked by all previous compilers, until then. PÃWSHĒR and PERMISSION were, respectively, the B-side and the 12″ bonus track for the PARADISE single. They are the two tracks within this collection that were recorded outside of the main sessions. The former, a mysterious single-word-repeated song, was recorded in New York in April, 1983; the latter, in London, two months later. Typically Strangler-esque, it sounds bright and summery, yet in fact chronicles the dark antics of the notorious French CRS riot police…
On Side 4 of the LP and continuing on the bonus CD is SAVAGE BREAST. Originally intended as an album track, it was left off at the last minute only to re-surface before the album’s release as the B-side of EUROPEAN FEMALE. Hugh‘s career-long love of film and theatre combined with his twisting of well-established names and phrases ran overboard on FELINE, with SAVAGE BREAST, MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM and LET’S TANGO IN PARIS completing his trio of word-play titles for 1983. In fact, so many of the song titles on FELINE are familiar phrases – IT’S A SMALL WORLD; SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT; ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME; NEVER SAY GOODBYE – that there was clearly an unconscious pattern developing during the song writing. Rounding off this collection are a couple of tongue-in-cheek curios that well support the band’s sense of fun. VLADIMIR & OLGA is akin to a modern-day Russian folk song based on a fictional couple in (then) Soviet-era Ukraine. It is the first in what became a quirky and much-loved series of adventures that were to recur over the next decade. The initial pressings of the original LP of FELINE included a free bonus one-sided 7″ called AURAL SCULPTURE. It also featured on initial copies of the original FELINE cassette. It was a sarcastic rant against the death of music in general and song-writing in particular. If you got it, it was both barbed and hilarious. Subsequently, the theme was carried on, with the title becoming that of the band’s next album, so the track was from there-on re-titled AURAL SCULPTURE MANIFESTO.
Whilst The STRANGLERS have suffered the recent dreadful losses of both the uniquely-talented Dave GREENFIELD (May 2020) and their founder and driving force, Jet BLACK (December, 2022), they continue to tour. From 3rd to 18th March 2023, they are playing three dates in SPAIN, followed by nine in FRANCE, including PARIS L’Olympia on 11th. Then in April they head Down Under between the 13th and 23rd for three dates in NEW ZEALAND and five in AUSTRALIA.
The line-up is JJ BURNEL (bass and vocals); Baz WARNE (guitar and vocals); Jim MACAULAY (drums, percussion and backing vocals) and Toby HOUNSHAM (keyboards and backing vocals).
To pre-order the 40th Anniversary Edition of FELINE on BMG go to: https://the-stranglers.lnk.to/feline