As an exercise in balance and objectivity, there's little to suggest that HUGH CORNWELL's THE STRANGLERS: SONG BY SONG is anything other than straight down the line. Calm and measured (but never dull), and without resort to egotistical hyperbole, he tells the story of his tenure with The Stranglers via every song they wrote together. The result is a compelling piece of work.
Many people have their own opinions as to whether The Stranglers were any good after Hugh left. For me, they weren't. And when the magic of the original lineup changed the spell was broken and that was it. Sorry, JEAN-JAQUES BURNEL (Bass), DAVE GREENFIELD (Keyboards) and JET BLACK (Drums).
The book is framed around a 'conversation' between Cornwell and JIM DRURY, a longtime Stranglers fan. As a result, there's an air of informality about the project (a similar conceit was used in JOHN LENNON's final Playboy Magazine interview in 1980) yet the guitarist's style is articulate and focused, adding relevant background to every song under discussion. And there's certainly no shortage of those. From the first album (RATTUS NORVEGICUS) to the last (10), almost thirteen years later, the essence of what made The Stranglers special is quite clearly evident in the recollections of an ex-lead singer who, in sharp contrast, says he's never been happier since his departure from the band in 1990. That may be so, but I can't imagine that there isn't at least some kind of unresolved conflict to address regarding creative satifaction versus steadily diminishing returns. He's probably all too aware that the only way chart action could ever be achieved now is by becoming a Strangler again - one of the original magnificent four, back in the spiritual home, so to speak. Ah, even with the most wishful of wishful thinking that scenario ain't gonna happen and, regretfully, all those concerned shine a little less brightly as a consequence. My opinion and I'm entitled to it. Sorry, Hugh.
Climbing off the high horse of fantasy...the 16 year collective friendship is not played down as much as you might expect given the reported acrimonius exchanges over the intervening years. In fact the whole group dynamic is given further depth and resonance by Cornwell's candid admission of their extensive drug taking, which led to his arrest and subsequent incarceration at Her Majesty's pleasure in 1984 and the whole band being locked up shortly after following an incident at a gig in Nice. Good times and bad times, to be sure, but Hugh has finally grown up and seems at ease with the destinies of both himself and his former colleagues. Of course it would be interesting to see how things compared were there not one but four books on a similar theme - and that may happen one day, I hope - but in the meantime make the most of this excellent offering. The songs are wonderful; the ideas and inspirations behind them fascinating; and the man (plus the men) behind THE STRANGLERS equally so. Amen.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED