Over the past few years The Stranglers have become firmly established as one of the best, most exciting and most powerful live acts around.
Sell-out shows and high-profile festival appearances have sealed their relationship with their famously loyal fan base as well as introducing and re-introducing themselves to new and old fans alike.
The band have simply become a live phenomenon.
But, even though they are now in their 38th year and they could spend their lives on the road reworking the material from their vast back catalogue, the band have never stopped songwriting and never turned their back on the recording studios. Thus they are back now their their 17th studio album - their first for five years - and its title is apt because this is a giant, epic and impressive work.
Giants is an eclectic and very unpredictable record which harnesses many old Strangler strengths - the bass seems to have been turned up to 11 again at times - with some genuine surprises. So you have traditional Stranglers rockers like the jaunty Time Was Once On my Side, the punchy and purposeful Freedom Is Insane, the pleasingly 1977 retro Lowlands and the simply wonderful closing track 15 Steps, next to a dreamy opening instrumental, a touch of rock `n' jazz in the mesmerising My Fickle Resolve and a track that manages to mix lyrics in Spanish with a tango and some pretty brutal guitar playing which sounds like Van Halen may have performed it. Yep, they are not playing it safe here but then again playing it safe has never been a Strangler trait.
The album as a whole has genuine impact, genuine power and gives the genuine feeling that The Stranglers still have something to say and have musical and lyrical ideas aplenty. I have tried to work out which Stranglers album it reminds me of most and perhaps tellingly I can't find nail one. There are touches of the last two superb return-to-form albums Norfolk Coast and Suite 16, a dash of Meninblack, a smidgen of La Folie's variety and diversity, a nod to the mid-80s Aural Sculptue era and even the odd bass lick and swirling keyboard that could have come straight off No More Heroes or Black and White.
So yes Giants has its authors influences imbedded and fully respects its creators history - but crucially it stands alone as a new, bold, credible, innovative and througly enjoyable Stranglers album that is every bit as relevant to 2012 as Rattus Norvegicus was to 1977 and Feline to 1983.
It is an album of its time, an album to cherish and I suspect an album which will delight those who have followed the amazing journey of this truly unique band throughout the past rollercoaster four decades.
The Stranglers? They must be giants.
on 26 April 2014
I recently saw the Stranglers on their current Spring 2014 tour and clearly they were in good form and played tracks, presumably from this album, which came across well. On the strength of that gig I bought the Giants album and good it is too. It's up there with many mid-period Cornwell-Stranglers albums, so evidently it's very good. To be honest, this is one that I will play plenty of. Not of their albums have had that effect since "10", although 10 was fairly poppy but enjoyable. Much more traditional Stranglers!
on 12 March 2012
Firstly let me start this review by saying Hugh Cornwell is gone, he has been gone a long time, the Stranglers have made 7 albums without him, 6 of them being very good and we wont mention Coup De Grace. Many bands change line-ups and some are very successful when "frontmen" go, Iron Maiden & Ultravox clear examples.
Hugh did a great job with the Stranglers but he wasn't the band and judging by his solo output (not great in my opinion) he needed Dave, JJ & Jet an awful lot.
Anyway, onto the new album, for me Giants is a "grower", there are no real stand out tracks on this for me this could be its real strength. The band has moved away from the safer territory of Norfolk Coast & Suite 16, both very good albums in my opinions. This album is varied, considered and clever. I like the production, it has a clean, freshness, the bass lines stand out, the keyboards are captivating, Jets drumming is as solid as ever and Baz's guitar work fits beautifully, very similar to Hugh's.
I will break it down song by song:
Another Camden Afternoon
A superb opening to the album and an instrumental at that, The Stranglers have always been able to produce a good instrumental going right back to Longships, Yellowcake UF6 & Love 30. The song has a wonderfully catchy bass line running through it.
Freedom Is Insane
The longest track on the album, JJ's vocal delivery is ok but what I love about this song is the keyboard solo during it, very reminiscent of Walk On By.
I must admit I wasn't sure about this one at first but it's good, not a classic but good. It reminds me of some of the gentler moments on In The Night.
I like the lyrics to this song.
An amusing track delivered by Baz about an incident while they were on tour.
Another good song, instrumentally sound.
Another one delivered by Baz and carries on the tempo of the album nicely following Lowlands, strong bass and keyboards throughout, very catchy.
My Fickle Resolve
Time to tone things down a bit, a lovely bluesy, jazzy number and its wonderful, maybe the highlight of the album, lyrically strong, a quiet lovely song, definitely has the feel of Cruel Garden.
Time Was Once On My Side
Is this an admission that none of us are getting any younger, especially the Stranglers?
For me, this one is ok but I think the last verse is a bit lame and weakens the song, after the superb previous track this one feels a bit of a let down.
Back to form, I love this song, very quirky, superb vocal delivery from Baz and I love JJ's bass attack to play out, this one is a cracker.
Another superb offering, a very powerful song, delivered beautifully by JJ, this one took me by surprise I must say.
For me, the best Stranglers albums finish with a classic closing song, Rattus with Down In The Sewer, Heroes with School Mam, Raven with Genetix and latterly Suite 16 with the brilliant Relentless. 15 Steps is almost there, a very good song written about the bands time working out of Bath. It's a good, very catchy end to the album and after hearing it makes you want to go back to track 1 and start again.
Is Giants a giant? Only time will tell. It's a unique album and fits well into the catalogue of 17 studio albums. Will it be their last? Again who knows, their 40th anniversary is only 2 years away and with Jet in his seventies and both Dave & JJ in their sixties I cant see many more albums on the horizon.
on 12 March 2012
Plus: artwork, powerful production, half the songs, continuing to stand the test of time
Minus: lack of understatement in the guitar, keyboards often displaced in the mix by the guitar, some tired songwriting
Put your headphones on and listen to 'Time Was...'. There's a tiny little scratchy noise buried on one side - it's the keyboards! Why would The Stranglers do that?
I can't thank these guys enough for the way they have brought The Stranglers back to life, but I feel they are constrained by a very conventional approach to the creative process. I would like to hear more experimentation, more space left in the sound, less adherence to pop song structure (but not jazz!). Maybe in the next life.