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The Doors - Strange Days CD (album) cover


The Doors



4.24 | 510 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Perhaps someone can clear this up for me...just what the crap genre should this be listed under? The fact that, barring a certain ten minute exercise, every number is about a well rounded three minutes (in fact, a couple are less than two!), would lead one to believing this is a largely “pop” album. Except it’s not pop. Hardly. Pop would never be this deep or mystical, lyricswise, or spookily played. That pop moniker keeps haunting me though...maybe it’s art pop, right? This IS a prog site after all. There does seem to be a mild conceptuality about this thing (the themes of lonely girls and strange people keep coming up, so it’s certainly thematic), but it refuses to contribute to the basic sound of art pop (overblown, usually with strings, but still radio friendly). No, that ain’t it. Its beauty lies in its simplicity (of approach, mind you, not mood).

Perhaps it’s psychedelic, eh? Well...I doubt that too, since most psycho songs are crafted to listen to while tripping. And, although this album is perfectly acceptable under those conditions, you really have to HEAR this thing, analyze it. And by “hear it,” I mean, “listen to it in a dark room with the headphones cranked up to eleven.” I can’t even really call it “mope-rock,” whatever that means, since the songs aren’t there to depress you. No, these songs are there to unnerve you.

Goth-pop maybe? Whatever (besides, what else fits that moniker? Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower?”). The point is, this is one of the most fascinating albums of all time, and there’s only one tiny, nagging thing keeping me from calling it perfect. So please allow me to shut up and keep talking, as I go into a little more detail.

As the atmospheric keyboards and echoey Jim open “Strange Days,” one has to wonder, how on earth these guys thought this thing could honestly compete with Sergeant Pepper. Which is not to say it’s horrible, I just mean that it’s apples and organs dude! That is, something sweet and tasty, as compared to something gross and gory that you’d really rather not have out in front of your family. Gotta love those creepy, mystical lyrics (“Strange days have dragged us down, “The hostess is grinning.” Brr), and that solid organ riff. Far cry from “Little Help From My Friends,” that’s for sure.

“You’re Lost Little Girl” is just plain creepy. Floaty, ethereal guitar solo, and more weird lyrics. “Love Me Two Times” proves that the Doors’ blues fetish is still in place. Mystical though the album might be, Jimbo wasn’t gonna let it go without this thing. Helluva song too, since “blues” still equates “Doors blues.” Bouncy guitar riff, and some highly intricate piano soloing. Dig how it gets scarier as it goes along. “Unhappy Girl” opens with a psychedelic keyboard, but fear not. Still the same ole Doors. Which means that you can’t quite tell if the song is freaky or creepy, and the slide guitar meshes with the noble, medieval keyboards flawlessly.

I was originally worried, nay, horrified, concerning the rumors of “Horse Latitudes,” a certain poetic ranting non-song. After all, wasn’t it pointless poetry that killed Days of Future Passed? However, all fears were abated when I actually just listened to the damn thing. Hell, it’s practically a highlight. For one thing (although I’m no great shake when it comes to poetry), it sounds a million times more mature than other poetry I’ve heard dropped on albums. Or, at least, it’s delivered more maturely, and if Jim believes it, I have no choice but to play along. And, secondly, and more importantly, it fits into the flow and mood of the album perfectly! It’s scary man, what with the bizarre instrumentation and screaming; them horses’ll give you nightmares.

“Moonlight Drive” proves that perhaps the Doors’ best trick was build. God, the build! You THINK it’s a love song, but it just keeps getting scarier and scarier, and in the end, everyone dies! Ain’t that great? Sure is. Pretty cool martial drumming too.

It’s hard to pick a favorite number on this album, since it’s all so God damned EVEN, but I nominate “People Are Strange” as the best song. And, yes, I do realize that it’s considered the Doors’ best acknowledged “pop” outing, but it’s good! Besides, would a real pop song contain such dark, repetitive lyrics (I mean, a pop anthem to being a weirdo? C’mon!)? Couple that with a deliciously lazy Krieger solo, and some brilliant piano work, sophisticated drumming, and it’s amazing to think of what these boys can cover in less than two minutes.

“My Eyes Can See You” is a great, hard rockin’ bit. Best guitar solo on the album (or at least tying with the one on “When the Music’s Over”), and desperate, menacing piano. I’d call it a love song, but it’s kind of a perverse one; every time I hear it, I keep getting images of a dilapidated hotel. Perhaps the only thing that can be honestly considered a love song is “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind.” Except that it’s totally creepy and atmospheric (“Carnival dogs consume the lines.” Back to the album cover). Great use of percussion.

The closing epic “When the Music’s Over” is a definite highlight, perhaps better than anything else on the album, and certainly the best possible way to end it. Open with that deceptively jaunty, rising keyboard, then launch into a full frontal musical assault. After some lyrics with Jimbo moaning about how “the music is your only friend,” Robbie steps in with a truly nightmarish guitar solo. Gosh, with friends like that...

Then it all slows down. Pay attention to the relation between Jim and the band (“I hear a very gentle sound,” guitar noises), especially John Densmore. When he was good, he was GOOD. Oh, and, that part where drums, organ and guitar are banging out the same ascending/descending riff? Sheer Gothic, psychedelic, metallic, insert-genre-here bliss. This song has so many twists and turns, that if you (please PLEASE) listen to it in a dark room, headpones at eleven, I can practically guarantee that you won’t sleep for days. Worth every minute.

So, every song is memorable, every song is intelligent, every song is well played, every song is different, and every song accomplishes that ever important mood that the album is going for. Why ain’t it flawless? Well, to tell I’m not sure at the moment...

The length, damn it! The length. This album is WAY too short, and so are most of its songs. Then again, shortness is in and of itself not a sin (before you criticize, recall that Gentle Giant, a “real” art band, always kept to short material). Perhaps it’s just that these songs are meditations on strange things that come out of the rain...heh.

In the end, when the music’s over, what really matters is that this is an album that no one else on earth could have ever produced. Not even Procol Harum. They were just human beings, whereas Jimmy Morrison was a psycho. A good psycho. No one else on earth has ever yet popped in some poetry that has, not only failed to offend me, but has actually served the overall recording. I mean, this album is GOOD damn it! Forget about me and buy it. If only for the cover, TOTALLY fits the album. Seriously, ever song I can link back to that freaky, washed out circus. Better’n Brain Salad Surgery’s maybe.

(DAMNIT! Why, why, why is almost every great album cursed with such lousy bonus tracks? Strange Days gets just two, and they’re both practically useless to all but whacked out Doors fans. It’s just dicking around in the studio, trust me. Okay, so it is a little cool to hear Robbie construct the opening riff to “People are Strange” on the “(False Starts and Dialogue)” bit, and “Love Me Two Times” is different enough to deserve a listen (drum heavier, and the piano is switched for organ). But do you REALLY need to hear this? Well...maybe. Just every now and then. But no change in rating.)

The Whistler | 5/5 |


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