Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Stranglers review – 'Unexpectedly poignant'

"Last time we played here, we had strippers on stage and drummer Jet Black naked on an elephant," says Strangler Baz Warne. He's joking, but (give or take an elephant) the band's long career has been peppered with such incidents. Nowadays, though, their outrages are more tongue in cheek, although strippers do appear – on screen in a video of their infamous 1978 Battersea Park gig – for an unrepentant Nice'N'Sleazy.

Headline-grabbing controversies aside, the Meninblack wouldn't have outlasted their punk-era rivals without a formidable back catalogue. Celebrating their 40th anniversary with their best-selling ever tour, the two-hour setlist takes in their 17 albums from 1977's Rattus Norvegicus to 2012's Giants and is strong enough to dispense with signature hit No More Heroes inside the first two numbers.

With Jean-Jacques Burnel's bass rumbling menacingly under Dave Greenfield's prog-rock keyboard flourishes, The Stranglers sound is unmistakable, but they have experimented with it wildly. Thrown Away is Strangled disco and sees Warne and Burnel indulge in some comedy dad-dancing, while lyrics tackle everything from global capitalism to bottoms.

Never to Look Back provides an unexpectedly poignant moment with images of themselves as young Stranglers and headlines such as "Hugh Cornwell quits". The original frontman left in 1990, but Warne and Burnel's shared vocals mostly ensure that Golden Brown, 5 Minutes and the rest sound exactly as they should.

The band keep admirably straight faces as 1977's Peaches is accompanied by images of tinned peach slices. A sadder note is 75-year old drummer Black's absence due to illness, but his willingness to tour at all is typical of the band's indefatigability. The band promise he will rejoin them shortly – so we might see him naked on that elephant after all.

The Stranglers - Golden Brown

Original article: The Guardian

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