A third straight punk rock album? What is happening here? That’s what it looked like, as I began to play “Rattus Norvegicus” by the UK band, The Stranglers. By the way, “Rattus Norvegicus” is the species name for brown rat. So… yeah. This album is #8 on loudersound.com’s Top 10 Punk Rock albums of all times.
I steadied myself and prepared for another day of aggressive two to three chord songs, played really fast with lots of spit and venom. While The Stranglers certainly have a punk attitude, their sound is much different than The Damned or The Clash. Most notably, while there is a lead guitar, the most prominent source of melody in each song is a bright and cheery keyboard, augmented by some snappy bass lines. This lineup, which has shifted many times over the years, featured Hugh Cornwell on guitars and vocals, Jean-Jacques Burnel on bass and vocals, Jet Black on percussion, and the talented Dave Greenfield, doing his best Ray Manzarek impression, on keyboards. Sadly, Dave Greenfield died in May of 2020, and is the first musician I have read of during this journey who died because of COVID-19. Get your shots and wear those masks, please and thank you.
The tracks are an eclectic mix and certainly offer a variety of sounds and styles. I particularly favor the opener, “Sometimes”, “Goodbye Toulouse” (the second artist on this list to mention Toulouse, although in this case it is in reference to France, not New Orleans), “Peaches”, which was the most successful and well-known song on the album, and since we are talking about sewer rats, we might as well have a song called “Down in the Sewer”.
Like I said, this band has plenty of punk sneer, but their overall sound is more like a blend of The Sex Pistols, The Doors, Primus and Sublime. They have had a long and enduring career as a band, and are currently planning their farewell tour in tribute to Dave Greenfield. Be safe out there, and enjoy The Stranglers!