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 October 2014
Good but not as good as Norfolk Coast or Suite XVI.
Hopefully their mooted final album if it ever gets completed will hit those Dizzy Heights again.
Still worth purchasing though.
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.
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 4 July 2012
Ok let's look at this objectively now that the album has been out for a few months and we can look at it outside all the hyped excitement of a new release. The difference with Giants as opposed to the two recent "returns to form" Suite 16 and Norfolk Coast is that I consistently revisit this album without in anyway getting bored with it.
The diversity of this album is what puts it genuinely up there with their best Cornwell output. Remember the days when you had so many styles on one album (Black and White and The Raven) well this is what Giants gives you. Yes Suite 16 had its moments (most notably Relentless)and Norfolk Coast was the Stranglers by numbers to a fair degree, needed at that time to drag us all out of the late 90s slumber of Written in Red and Coup de Grace but this truly is the Stranglers as they should be - not afraid to open an album with an instrumental and to include a heavy metal tango. All the songs in between are equally diverse to keep interest with only the poppy Boom Boom failing to really excite (me anyway).
I have been a Stranglers fan since 1977 and in my opinion this is right up there in the top 5 of their career.
on 4 April 2014
I'm not a Stranglers fan as such and to be honest I only ever heard Golden Brown which left me cold at the time. I read a recent interview in Classic Rock with them and decided to take a chance on this disc. In a word, superb. What a pleasant surprise. From the jazz infused swing of My Fickle Resolve to the effortless swagger of the title track there's not a duff track to be found. This disc is a masterpiece of musicianship and dark wit. This has made this fifty- something, jaded music lover become excited about music again. Thanks Stranglers. Where to go from here?
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 26 April 2015
Probably one of the finest releases by The Stranglers in their 41 years in the industry.JJ's bassline is killer and baz's vocals are just superb and with Dave & Jet black completing the men in black line-up these guys are just so under-rated these days...Long live The Stranglers!
on 27 April 2012
...that I'd ever love another album by The Stranglers.
Truth be told, my once passionate love affair with The Men In Black began to wane long before Hugh Cornwell left the band in 1990. While I largely accepted the trio of early 80s 'concept' albums 'The Meninblack', 'La Folie' and 'Feline' - and actually to be fair they were/are all pretty good albums - I drew the line at 1984's dismal brass-infected pop-tripe 'Aural Sculpture' and left a gig at The Dominion in London on that tour feeling bitter and resentful towards a band that I had invested so much time in. Thereafter, I couldn't really be bothered with the remaining material with Hugh Cornwell, simply couldn't get my head around the 'rebirth' with Paul Roberts at all, and have largely ignored the band ever since...with the exception of introducing my son to the early material when he started getting interested in music a few years ago (I don't think it did anything for his GCSE results).
So why the change of heart? Firstly, I laughed out loud when I saw the cover and maybe it's macabre imagery re-awakened some of my old passions for this band. Then I ran across an interview with the band in The Times (of all places) and felt rather nostalgic. What the hell, let's have a listen, I thought.
What a surprise! I liked 'Giants' straightaway and after hammering the CD on the car stereo for a month or so, I would go so far as to say that this is the best Stranglers album since 1979 masterpiece 'The Raven'(OK, OK I accept that I haven't heard much at all of the Paul Roberts era material, but I'm betting that even the most die-hard fan wouldn't have any of those albums in a Top 5 of the band's work. Incidentally, I have now bought 'Norfolk Coast' and it's way below the standard of 'Giants').
'Giants' is what I'd call a 'proper' Stranglers' album in terms of sound, song structure and black humour. Apart from 'Adios (Tango)' (which isn't even that bad) every track is really good or better. It kind of reminds me (without wishing to be sacriligeous at all) of the aforementioned 'The Raven'. What I mean is that, like so many albums, it's not just one or two stand-out tracks, a few OK ones and a load of filler. Most of this is just so blooming good and - importantly - the whole thing runs together really well, a factor that elevates 'The Raven' (amongst just a very select group of albums by anyone, ever) to its lofty perch. There is so much to enjoy on 'Giants'; I heartily recommend it and I hope it brings a few more 'former' fans, like myself, back into the fold.
Long live The Men in Black.
ps the little 'Walk On By'-esque keyboard tinkle on 'Freedom is Insane' made me laugh out loud again.
on 7 March 2012
Having been a stranglers fan for a long time and spent most of my youth trawling around the midlands following the band around during the late seventies early eightees, I sort of moved away from them for a while, to me la folie started a bit of a decline in the sound I'd grown to love, Rattus, heroes, black and white, the raven always on my record player, foile and meninblack were great tours but the albums didn't really get played to much.
Over the years I have followed with interest, listened, but not really bought much due to constant greatest hits being churned out. Then I thought sod it and bought decades as I wanted their stuff on the MP3 player, this followed a visit to a gig in Portsmouth that to be honest was damn good, even if the sound engineer is a bit cack. Bitten black again and we were probably one of the first to get tickets for this years Portsmouth gig, even the wife is now a closet convert.
To this end, my pre release Enhanced Giants arrived saturday about lunchtime, so I stuck on me headphones wacked up the volume and thought lets see what we have got........bass...sure enough, jj's bass snarls into action and sets the scene for a cd that seems to revive all my original passions for the band, the bass, the keys are there, there is that unmistakable solid foot and some damn good guitar riffs which make this a stranglers album of top league. For me, this is the missing link, an album with some damn fine melodies and that oh so luverly bass. I think the Meninblack have a hit album on their hands and they so deserve it.
All hail the MENINBLACK, they're BACK..............