The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus (1977), 8/10

Rattus Norvegicus admittedly represents a dated branch of new wave, yet this record is timelessly fun to listen to. Perhaps due to a highly effective blending of joyous optimism with a heavy, dark, urban approach to sound, its charisma is infectious and unavoidable. There is an unmistakably vulgar sense of humor throughout to elevate a set of tracks that combine punk with synth pop in a surprisingly individualistic fashion, giving it a magnetic draw beyond its sonic and genre limitations. The album starts off electric and grabs you with its powerful voice, as “Sometimes” excels with its punchy and layered energy followed by an unmistakable Stranglers sound in “Goodbye Toulouse” that exhibits the band’s compositional strengths in its vivacity and spirited liveliness. This, along with the middle stretch consisting of “Hanging Around” and the amusingly filthy “Peaches” is a clear peak of sound, while the rest can feel scattered and unimpressionable in comparison. Especially the last few tracks are unremarkable, even making me wonder where the last fifteen or so minutes went after such a consistently enrapturing preceding stretch. Still, Rattus Norvegicus is a superb debut album that stands tall as one of the clear strong points of new wave. The band’s direct approach to the album’s narrative along with their unapologetic forwardness give them a unique foundational footing in such an honest record, something that only furthers its cogency. While the sound is unmistakably separated from its punk origins, it exemplifies the movement’s ethos in a poetic fashion. It may not sound as rebellious as it originally was in 1977, but these guys stood out as pioneers in their ironic portrayal of machismo and generally disreputable characters. It can be simple, fun music or considered a bold social statement; either way Rattus Norvegicus is tenaciously ambitious and impressive in its achieved sound.