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stranglers giants
Artist: The Stranglers
Title: Giants
Genre: Punk Rock / New Wave
Release Date: 9th March 2012
Label: Ear Music


Album Review

There are bands, who really don’t need any introduction, cause their influence on the contemporary music is that enormously, that you can call them (free of any pathos) icons. And I dare to submit that THE STRANGLERS are definitively one of those. No one out there, who isn’t able to sing along at least one of their songs (‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Always the Sun’) and no chart of influential rock albums, that is missing their name (and with about twenty top 40 singles in the UK up to date in a career spanning almost four decades, they rightly maintain the title “most continuously successful band to have originated in the UK punk scene of the mid to late 1970s”!) But for the younger ones among you (and the joy of the chroniclers), I’ll provide some basics.

Founded in 1974 in the English town Guildford, early on the band evolved (influenced by the psychedelic rock of bands like THE DOORS or MUSIC MACHINE) a musical attitude, that was soaked with aggression and uncompromisingness, what caused the fact, that they were labelled as arsonists of what would become the English punk movement a few years later, although they always denied any musical definition, exploring and experimenting with a variety of musical styles like New Wave or Art Rock (so they were one of the first bands in their musical surroundings, that used a keyboard - or more precise an organ - in their music!). Their first bigger success came with the album ‘No more Heroes’ in 1977 (ironically released one day before Bowie´s ‘Heroes’ single saw the light of the world - but that’s another story), what made them sharing stages with THE RAMONES, THE CLASH and PATTI SMITH. The next big step they climbed with their 1981 album ‘La Folie’, what included the song ‘Golden Brown’ (their most successful song up to date), followed by another “evergreen” with the single ‘Strange little Girl’.

During the Eighties the band got a bit off their musical tracks (maybe a spell of that decade), trying to deal with some more mainstream and popular music, what successfully failed (a phase, that bore one of their classics (‘Always the Sun’) at least), before singer and founding member Hugh Cornwell left the band in the early Nineties to pursue a solo career. It took some sixteen years then until the band could live up to their earlier form with releasing ‘Suite XIV’, what marked a return to their heavier punk roots and a rediscovered fun of mixing a variety of styles. It followed sold-out tours through Europe and Asia and headlining slots at festivals (i.e. Glastonbury), when in 2009 rumours went round, that the band could be heading into retirement after releasing one more album. Whatever truth is in there, fact is with ‘Giants’, THE STRANGLERS kept their promise and their 17th studio album sees the light of the world these days.

And in advance I can reveal ‘Giants’ joins seamlessly the STRANGLERS´ classics. There is no augury of tiredness, no indication of boring self- plagiarizing, ‘Giants’ contains all what their best albums always had contained - pressing, novel energy, a pinch of blissful melancholy and playfulness combined with that originality, that has always made it so hard to place them. But now let’s go at last!

The journey starts with ‘Another Camden Afternoon’, a very Blues-orientated instrumental piece (the band's first instrumental for over 20 years) with the slinky bass as its spinal cord, later accompanied by the “legendary” Hammond organ. A very groovy entrance, but who expects some thunderstorm now will be disappointed (but only then), cause the next track starts with calming waves, guitar squirts and sugar-like strings, on which JJ Burnel´s vocals (who will share the vocal parts with Baz Warne throughout the album) comes strolling in with a wistful croon, reflecting but in some way relaxed, before the drums join in for making ‘Freedom Is Insane’ an ambling rock song, backed by organ and unchained guitars, creating a mood between elation and melancholy, a pattern, that will appear a few times more on our way. ‘Giants’, the title track turns out to be a quirky mixture of Blues and Rock’n’Roll elements, flowing in a great melodic chorus (with a slight bowie-ish character), what dresses the song in something dripping melodic, stained with some dark undertones. That clears the way for the straight ‘Lowlands’, what reflects the band’s Punk origins with simple and unadorned guitar attacks and an incentive drum flow, garnished with a clever handling of the cadence, echoing the band’s joy of playing and their passion for compositional oddities.

‘Boom Boom’ is a punchy song, whose frayed guitars and tireless bass exude that feeling of laxity paired with a flippant dignity when guitar player Baz ponders on the girls in his life. With ‘My Fickle Resolve’ we reach an atmospheric climax so far. Stripped down it almost rides on the bass and the jazzy, stroking drum for creating an atmosphere of strange sadness, fed by the smooth and almost repenting vocals... “My fickle resolve will be the death of me... one day, I’m sure”. ‘Time was once on my Side’ lifts the noise level up again with distorted vocals yelling over brushing guitars and stomping drums for unveiling a catchy chorus, pimped by some dazzling flashes of the organ and again we founder on the band’s predictability when suddenly a short Ska break turns the corner (in best Madness-manner) for finding the most unexpected conclusion of the song.

‘Mercury Rising’ is some kind of stylistic weirdness. Space-like keyboards meet eighties pop-beats meet a spoken word performance meet a howling, metal-like guitar... and nevertheless it works to appear all in all, a bit like creature, put together in a freakish scientist’s laboratory. And when the journey started with a Blues and went past Punk, Jazz and Ska, then it’s almost a matter of course, that we also pass a Tango! ‘Adios’ enthrals with its kind of exotic (what is really hard on that album!) and the translation of a standard to a guitar-based dirty rock song, transferring an erotic component by the use of Spanish language and the typical wistfulness in the harmony. And we finish with ‘15 Steps’, a noisy outcome, with some country-like undertones, mingled with oppressive drums, sharp guitars and the prominent organ raving mad. A churning exit...

It’s hard to believe, that ‘Giants’ is the 17th album of a band, whose members are all aged between 50 and 70, cause it contains such a ebullient energy and a palpable joy of playing, that you wonder: What’s the guys secret? You feel, that the band has reached a (well-deserved) state, where they have nothing to prove, where they are able to relax for making music on their own terms, music THE STRANGLERS were always notorious for - versatile, mutable, energetic, sophisticated, weird and gripping songs. And ‘Giants’ is filled to the brim with that.


Tracklist

01.Another Camden Afternoon
02.Freedom Is Insane
03.Giants
04.Lowlands
05.Boom Boom
06.My Fickle Resolve
07.Time Was Once On My Side
08.Mercury Rising
09.Adios (Tango)
10.15 Steps


Line-up

Jean-Jacques Burnel - Bass, Vocals
Jet Black - Drums
Dave Greenfield - Keyboard
Baz Warne - Guitar, Vocals


Website

www.stranglers.net


Cover Picture

stranglers giants


Rating

Music: 8
Sound: 8
Total: 8 / 10


Buy the album here!

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