Thursday, April 7, 2011


Widely regarded as their worst album (that honor really goes to later Hugh Cornwall-free releases),  this 1981 album is still worth a listen,  especially by those interested in electro-pop and the instruments that made that sound possible (the EDP Wasp monosynth is the main culprit here,  a small, cheap instrument that opened the wild world of synthesis to the masses).  MIB is a darkly comic concept album about extra-terrestrials,  conspiracy theory,  and organized religion,  whose genesis can be heard on a track ("Meninblack") from  their previous album,  THE RAVEN (1979).  While Dave Greenfield's keyboards have always been an integral part of The Strangler's sound,  here they become the prominent sound and structure with  guitar use kept to a minimum.  BTW,  Greenfield is said to have had three Wasps connected together in his live rig at the time of this recording.  MIB can certainly be seen as their most experimental album,  as electronics abound,  even treating some of the vocals so they sound "Just Like Nothing on Earth", a standout track here. A Korg VC-10 Vocoder apparently accomplished that feat.  The remastered CD edition points out that much of the music,  both synth and percussion sounds,  was created extensively through manual tape looping rather than through the use of sequencers or drum machines,  giving this album a fat, plodding mechanical sound more akin to early Devo than Tangerine Dream.  Its electronic sheen has led bassist Jean Jacques Burnel to regard MIB as a proto-techno album years before techno became a widely known sub-category of electronica. I think Burnel is somewhat off the mark,  as tracks like "Second Coming",  Waiting For the Meninblack",  Two Sunspots,  and "Manna Machine"  sound mainly like good Stranglers tracks given an electronic treatment,  not a major overhaul.  In many ways I think MIB is far more creative and riskier than albums like LA FOLIE (1981),  FELINE (1983) and AURAL SCULPTURE (1984),  releases that showcased their conservative side and left most of the group's anger and experimentation by the waysde.

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