The Stranglers - Giants (album)
THE STRANGLERS - A REVIEW OF THE NEW ALBUM 'GIANTS'
1) Another Camden Afternoon. 2) Freedom Is Insane. 3) Giants. 4) Lowlands. 5) Boom Boom. 6) My Fickle Resolve. 7) Time Was Once On My Side. 8) Mercury Rising. 9) Adios. 10) 15 Steps.
"It's greasy and it's British" was how Baz Warne once described the opening track to The Stranglers' seventeenth studio album, when it was used as a main theme in the film Suckerpunch - a soundtrack composed by JJ & Baz back in 2008. This description applies to the majority of the 'Giants' album - a body of work where The Stranglers, for once, fulfil the psychedelic-punk prophesy and live up to the mantle of the previously cited 'Punk Floyd'. This is the closest the band have come to being the pioneering progressive giants of the '77 punk movement, as once touted by the lazy journalists of a punk past. But rather than their sound being likened to The Doors, added to the mix this time are smatterings of Small Faces, Kinks and Pink Floyd-ian influences. Don't let that fool you though. It is still a classic Strangler album including tints of distinctive strangulation - the dirty bass and flirty keyboards - are scattered throughout, ensuring this is irrefutably still The Meninblack in control. It's eccentric, it's eclectic and it's most definitely electric.
A dirty, guttural blues guitar riff laid over Burnel's meaty, beaty, big and bouncy bass line opens the album. An instrumental track revisiting and revamping the Suckerpunch theme but the posthumously added lyric - the story of a woman mugged in Camden Town one Saturday afternoon - has been jettisoned, leaving just the title from a newspaper headline to tell the tale. Dave Greenfield has obviously been more involved in the actual song composition of this album, no more so than with the vamping organ heard here. Audiences attending the last couple of tours or those who caught the band at any of their recent festival appearances will already be familiar with the next track, 'Freedom Is Insane', and will be aware of it's evolution as it gently metamorphosised before our ears. In this completed form we hear the benefit of it's public experimentation and, although still appearing to be a number of song ideas crow barred together, in the studio the band have produced another epic Strangler opus echoing past masterpieces. The title track 'Giants', lamenting the lack of role models in modern society (an up to date take on the themes introduced in the anthemic 'No More Heroes') along with 'Boom Boom'- with it's Kink influenced chorus - 'Lowlands' and 'Time Was Once On My Side' all display the new progressive influences from the drug enhanced past. Shades of kinky passages, pretty thing hurdy-gurdy keys and small faced chops sprinkle the tracks with an acid laced white powder icing. Giants from the classic British bands of the late '60s and early '70s garnish the self-styled punk attitude and combine to produce a new flavour for 2012.
The soft shoe shuffle of 'My Fickle Resolve', with Baz's spoken lyric and Jet Black's delicate brushstrokes on the drums, break up the album with its 'Dutch Moon'-esque subtlety. It allows the listener breathing space before the final stretch kicks in with the album's appointed 'lead track' - 'Time Was Once On My Side'. With it's memorable opening chords, a distorted JJ vocal and a ska-tinged outro, it is no wonder this was highlighted as the promotional vehicle for the album. 'Mercury Rising' a Beefheart influenced composition with a strong '80s vibe leads us onto the quirky side of the Stranglers' portfolio with the heavy metal Argentinian tango of 'Adios' (as the title suggests it is sung in Spanish). This Cuban-heeled stomping strut would not be out off place augmenting a scene in Quentin Tarantino's 'From Dusk Till Dawn'. Album closer, the bouncing '15 Steps', recounts memories of the stairway leading to the sanctuary of a bedroom - the singer accusing Eddie Cochran of getting his maths wrong on the way to heaven (a subject that RUDI may also have issue with as they descended 14 steps to Hell!!).
Lyrically the band touches on topics as diverse as freedom and parliamentary democracy, contrasting public opinions, through to past loves and the women in their (past) lives. Time may once have been on their side and they may no longer be the angry punks of the late '70s, but they still confront themes and issues that concern their, and often our, lives. Musically, they continue to produce their trademark tunesmithery - sometimes powerful, sometimes sublime - but always maintaining that undercurrent of controlled menace that defines the band. To be honest, part of me was dreading this release. Having witnessed the live preview of five new tracks (including 'Freedom Is Insane') at the 2011 Weekendinblack Convention, I was dubious as to the quality of the material to be included in the upcoming 'new' album. As a veteran of a few Strangler gigs and having in the past been privy to the live debut of a number of new tunes, in my opinion, the recent performances by comparison did not bode well for the future. Listening to these tracks now as they blast from the speakers of my sound system, I can categorically state, I am once again as excited by a new Strangler release as any of the previous sixteen.
It's greasy and it's The Stranglers.