Advancing studio recording techniques were becoming more popular in 1967, namely the 8-track recording machine. For their second album, this enabled The Doors to expand their sonic scope and drive their already established otherworldly sound to new, exciting dimensions. Ironically, Strange Days is a deeply strange record, more so when placed next to the band’s infamous debut that brewed two timeless hit singles.
It’s important to note that The Doors are a collective; every member has an integral role to fulfill. Whether it be Jim Morrison’s charismatic vocals and poetry-writing, Robby Krieger’s intricate and exploratory guitar work, Ray Manzarek’s driving, melodic organ sprees or John Densmore’s jazz-infused drumming.
Thematically, Strange Days carries forth the dark and moody sensuality channeled in the band’s debut, yet multiplies it to a greater extent. Socioeconomic issues, such as the escalating events in Vietnam and the darker sides of the “Summer of Love” seem to be mirrored in the incoherency of the track listing and musical composition.
Immediately, the advances in recording techniques are apparent on the opening title track, as the band’s first foray into synthesiser territory is documented through multiple spacey licks. Krieger’s techniques of bending and sliding (using his “bottleneck guitar”) are critical to the atmosphere of the record. His guitar in ‘You’re Lost Little Girl’ creates a sublime dark aesthetic, yet its solidarity is short-lived thanks to Manzarek’s bright Vox Continental organ breezing on through.
Likewise, in ‘Unhappy Girl’, Krieger’s layered, off-piste slides conjure up some wacky imagery. ‘I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind’ harbours a certain ethereal and dreamy soundscape due to the glorious tandem-play of Manzarek and Krieger.
After returning from a walk that left Morrison in a “euphoric” state, the initial idea and lyrics for ‘People are Strange’ were born. Multiple meanings could be derived from the track, such as extensive drug use and alienation from society. Krieger’s twangy riff and guitar strokes generate an effective ebb and flow with Morrison’s vocals, resulting in one of the band’s greatest tracks.
Closing track ‘When the Music’s Over’ amalgamates the instrumental exploration of ‘Light My Fire’ with the climactic exposition of ‘The End’. The result clocks in at 11-minutes, featuring many composites with multiple reserved intermissions where only the bass exists in the mix. Krieger’s guitar and Manzarek’s organ often explode, creating chaotic chasms. A most worthy closer to a truly unorthodox yet well-illustrated collection of tracks.
Essential tracks: Strange Days // You’re Lost Little Girl // People Are Strange