They might have been the leery old pub lags of punk, but that meant The Stranglers had certainly learned to knock up an almighty tune by the time success gobbed wetly in their direction.
This 20-track ‘greatest hits’ (originally released in 2002), covering the Hugh Cornwell era and reissued on vinyl, skilfully dots their degenerate early masterpieces – Peaches, No More Heroes, Nice N’ Sleazy – between classier and more considered 80s singles, to portrait one of the few bands that arrived in the punk age as melodically primed as The Jam and Buzzcocks, and managed to refine their way out.
The randomised track-listing doesn’t help tell the story, presenting instead post-punk’s very own Jekyll and Hyde. The bloodthirsty likes of Something Better Change and 5 Minutes land jarringly between sophisticated 80s pop moments such as Strange Little Girl, Skin Deep and Always The Sun, momentum superseding plot.
As charming and gentlemanly as it is to be offered a waltz around harpsichord heroin gem Golden Brown inside the first two tracks, for example, it’s an incongruous swerve from the lascivious dub of Peaches. Particularly while one of their earliest signs of elegance, Duchess, languishes near the end.
Throw in a few deep cuts – 1980’s proto-Smiths Who Wants The World? and B-side Straighten Out, a feral Buddy Holly – and it’s a scatter-gun approach that doesn’t quite suit such a smartly evolving band.
But, bar curios such as French ramble La Folie and their over-egged psych-noir Walk On By, it makes for a consistently accomplished collection, albeit one clearly affected by moon cycles.