The Stranglers – Feel it Live – Newcastle 29/03/13

So, newly refreshed the three journeyed to the east…
Across the snowy landscape, at times crossing the border into lands unknown…
Eventually they made way to the fair city of Newcastle.
Again sanctuary was sought within the enclave known as Premier Inn. Where one of the number succumbed to the fever known as the dreaded lurgy!
Then they were two…
And the two did venture deep into the heart of the city.
Whereupon they did encounter once more a ceremonial gathering, where the natives did speak with a strange tongue. And they did party most hardily, welcoming travellers from far and near into the fold.
The ones known as the godfathers did once more prepare well the throng for the arrival of the Meninblack…
Two drum kits did indicate the presence of the founding father. While mystical runes did indicate that today was the anniversary of the arrival on this plane of existence of the grand wizard known as Dave… Happy Birthday sire!
A fine evening of sonic delight was provided for and lapped up by one and all. The master of the low frequency range called by the name of JJ did receive a native garment known as a bra which he did adorn his crown with much to the merriment of the masses. The one named Baz did put in a fine performance and was seen to enjoy the occasion very well.
The great opus known as Genetix did bring much joy to EiTC, who was heard to utter the following words… Top night, great sound, great crowd, f*cking awesome!

The Stranglers – Feel It Live – Carlisle Sands Centre 28/03/13

DISCLAIMER: the following was written by a distant traveller in a road-weary trance….

At 5am the two travellers began to face the day ahead.
A little later after much toil and hardship (and a lie in for one of them),
They left Southampton and headed north…

Arriving in London much later they sought out the one known as Elvis in The Clouds, adding him to their number.
Then they were three!
This unlikely trio set sail on the old black river again heading north, always to the north.
Crossing the calmness of the m40 they headed fearlessly on to the m6,
Despite all the portents of doom and gloom!
It was a fierce battle but eventually they made good progress (just past Preston actually)!

Then as the evening sun began to set, they feasted their eyes on the beauteous joy afforded them by the surrounding landscape
(This almost made up for spending most of the day sitting on the m6!).

Finally they came upon the enchanted village of Carlisle…
Where (after visiting the sanctuary known as premier inn) they ventured into the heart of the local festivities. Arriving at the juncture of the midway point in the set of those brave warriors the godfathers… Whose sound the three approved of.
Then in the pause of the festivities the one known as EiTC sought an audience with the great sage Toiler on The Sea ( nice to meteor).

Before long it was time… A strange sound heralded the arrival of the saviours…
The Meninblack were here and the people were joyous and most grateful for the aural delights.
The warrior Jet Black was not in attendance but this did not dampen the celebrations too much in spite of him being sorely missed. In his absence the masses were treated to Down in The Sewer and the band did sound very good and the crowd were very happy and it’s been a flipping long day and the narrator is off to bed g’night!

The Stranglers ‘Feel It Live’ Guildford 12th March 2013

It was great to see The Stranglers in Guildford last night. However I can’t help feeling the whole show had an element of the surreal to it. Almost like an out of body experience….

Starting at the beginning:

The venue itself with its angled staircase down to the bar from street level made me feel rather tipsy and I hadn’t dropped a touch! Also, I noticed that the super clean toilets didn’t seem to have any urinals. Then when I pointed an inquisitive punter in the direction of the Gents he went off in that direction and retorted in a rather disgruntled manner ‘That’s the Ladies!’ Oops!

Moving swiftly on, the sound was great in there last night! Support act The Godfathers made a good impression and really made an effort to get the crowd going. To paraphrase singer Peter Coyne “I hope you’re getting warmer, we’re the warm up act for The Stranglers and if you lot don’t warm up they’re going to duff us up!” And a valiant attempt was made by them to avoid a beating with their hard edged R&B.

On to the MIB, nice to see two drum kits, Jet Black in the house! The light show rolled fast-forward through the years indicating the 39 year lifespan of the band, to the delightful weirdness that is ‘Waltzinblack’. The band walked on and JJ fired up the intro of ‘Toiler on The Sea’. Sounding great so far! Next up the classic ‘Goodbye Toulouse’ followed swiftly by ‘Grip’. All seeming fine… But wait!

Whilst the sound was fantastic the band seemed a little unsettled. The crowd was friendly but it must be said it was one of the tamest crowds I’ve ever witnessed for the MiB! May be due to the fact that there were a lot of families right down at the front with a mixture of the really young and the really rather senior. It seemed like the band may have misread this gentle audience as being unenthusiastic. After ‘Golden Brown’ Baz directly asked the crowd “Are you enjoying yourselves? Thank god for that!?” Clearly Baz and JJ were really putting a great effort into stimulating a response. This kind of cross purposes seemed to carry on for the whole gig with the two frontmen putting everything into it, seemingly to little avail. Unawares that the crowd were lapping it up!

To add to the surreal mix JJ was looking a little tired (to the point of seeming a little spaced out!) But he really held it together with faultless playing (bass solo to ‘Genetix’ outstanding, pure genius!). And it didn’t deter him from being very frothy and playful in his taunting of the crowd. At the end of the show he went over to Baz and rested his head on his shoulder, as if they were consoling one another.

Back to the show: The set was really great, dropping some of the staples that fans expect to hear like ‘Hanging around’ for example and adding in some vintage classics such as ‘Bring on The Nubiles’, which for me was the highlight of the evening with its swift tight execution.

The newer songs were well received with ‘Mercury Rising’ receiving a healthy cheer as it was announced. ‘Freedom is Insane’ sounded rather psychedelic in there last night, brilliant! And Baz sung his heart out on ‘Norfolk Coast’ really doing the song justice. Relentless held its own as a classic of the modern era.

We were treated to ‘Midnight Summer Dream/European Female’ both sounding really great. ‘Lost Control’ was notable by its absence.

The light show was really good, although apparently it’s been toned down a little. Jim did a grand job on the drums considering the boots he has to fill. The crowd really didn’t seem to get it when Jet Black came on. Although I’d put that down to the mix of people in there. The master seemed as great as ever and was absorbed with the job at hand. His drumming for ‘Who Wants The World’ was full steam ahead! At the end of the show he peered over the top of his toms and gave us a grin and a wave, cool!

The ever grinning Dave was well on form, his keys sounded great and he was in fine voice for ‘Genetix’.

All in all a great night, lovely to meet lots of fellow fans in black and witness this most unique and brilliant band put in a great performance.
As for the surreal, maybe it’s something they put in the water in Guildford!

Here is Genetix…

While here is Golden Brown complete with Baz’s comments
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Giants by The Stranglers – Album Review

EiTC Reviews The Stranglers new Album ‘Giants’

Gargantuan… 

A new Stranglers album is always going to create a lot of interest. And album number 17 ‘Giants’ is doing just that. The internet is buzzing with anticipation. Early reviews are largely favourable (for good reason!) which is promising! Fansinblack are itching to get their paws on this latest offering. There’s even an anxious whisper that this may be a parting shot from the Men in Black (Does this mean Adios?)

After much anticipation a promo copy landed on my doormat a few days ago and here is my early attempt at getting a grip on Giants!

On first listen there is an unknown quality that’s almost hard to get. Fans will be familiar with that feeling, after all this is The Stranglers; the strange and unknown are to be expected and relished! So let’s establish, this album is not instant, it’s a grower! And in places it’s a growler too!

Okay, so I’ve listened to the CD in 5 different environments now; Studio monitors, High end PC monitors (x 2 i.e. home/work), MP3 player and the car stereo. And the good news is that it plays well in all these places. And it sounds good at modest levels or cranked (sorry neighbours…). Other reviews and the band themselves have alluded to a raw feeling on the production of this album and they’re not kidding! Favouring feeling over polish whilst not sacrificing any of the sonic delight, the album evokes memories of the first clutch of albums with a recorded live/minimal overdubs essence to it. There are also nods to the later albums in places.

On to the songs:

Instrumental ‘Another Camden afternoon’,  comes in with a bluesy intro and understated bass before opening out into classic Stranglers territory with catchy guitar licks, growling bass and onto a slow build on the keyboard (a great Hammond sound, or is it actually a Hammond Mr Greenfield?) and a rock solid beat. This tune originally had lyrics but they have been omitted as the band thought it stood up better as an instrumental. The backing vocals remain in what I presume to be the chorus but will we ever get to hear it with the lyrics? Verdict instant gratification!

‘Freedom is insane’ is the track most fans will be familiar with from recent live shows. This songs atmospheric introduction starts with waves and gentle cymbals (slightly reminiscent of ‘Riders on the storm’), on to a slow melodic build. Then it kicks in to the main thrust of the song, which for me is somehow evocative of the classic Toiler on the Sea. This song is ‘insanely’ catchy, with a fantastic keyboard solo (a tasteful nod towards ‘Walk on by’) and a cool Stranglers style Spaghetti Western lead guitar. JJ sings his heart out on this one, easily ranking as one of his better vocal performances.

The opening bars of title track ‘Giants’ has a feel evocative of the first couple of albums (keyboard in particular). JJ takes it down a notch vocally, his trademark spoken vocal style maturing into more of a Leonard Cohen style delivery, which is very nice once you’ve given it room to grow. Never has mellow sounded so menacing!

Lowlands gets better with every listen with its punky guitar intro and its tricky timing it takes a while to get it.  The unison run between the instruments is beautifully crafted and most effective. There is a persistent driving feel to the main verse riff that is really pertinent to the ‘life on the road’ theme of the song, very effective!

‘Boom boom’ comes across as a very catchy pop song, with a tip of the hat to 1978 lyrically “…move the Grey to Black and White”. Nice fairground organ, a jaunty pop song with a perky beat. And a great downward progression on the bridge.

‘My Fickle Resolve’ highlights the Spartan production but doesn’t suffer for it, kicking off with a melancholic reverberated bass melody that sticks like superglue. This jazzy piece is catchier than the common cold with echoes of ‘Dutch Moon’. Jet has some subtle brush work going on here. I fell for this one as soon as I heard it on its live debut. Baz’s voice shines on this one. Dave’s closing keyboard run is pure class! This song is sweetly melancholy with hidden depths!

‘Time was once on my side’ definitely sounds better on the album itself than the radio broadcasts we were treated to. A little too much distortion on the vocals causes them to be slightly incoherent but overall a good song with a great ending.

‘Mercury Rising’, Wow! A real grower, the bass could be right off the black & white session (both sonically and stylistically! ‘Enough Time’ anyone?). I get why some reviewers have made the Marc Bolan reference with Baz’s vocal style here but I’d say it’s more nodding towards Beefheart. Comparisons don’t matter however, as it’s good to hear Baz experimenting a bit more with his voice revealing some wonderful quirkiness very fitting of this band!

‘Adios’, another song which is not instant but let it grow and you won’t regret it! This number wouldn’t be out of place on a Tarantino or an Almodovar soundtrack. And from what I can make out of the lyric with my rudimentary Espanol, there’s a real sense of finality coming across. Are they trying to tell us something? Some great guitar moments and lovely atmospheric keyboards, interwoven with a steady tango beat from Mr Black. The switch to English during the atmospheric closing is very effective. Notable absence of bass in this number!

15 steps is another grower, a jaunty rockabilly/Johnny Cash style number with a catchy 2 step beat. It took a couple of listens but it’s worth it. Highlights include the great opening guitar lick, Mr Burnel’s sublime bass runs, some really neat guitar work from Baz, a dizzying unison run between guitar and keyboard  plus of course Jets rock steady beat. Lyrically, this is an autobiographical number about the bands West Country accommodation. Great stuff!

The Stranglers have done it again! ‘Giants’ is not so much a return to form as an affirmation/underlining of the Legend of The Men in Black. In places it alludes to the past while never being derivative, it sounds like The Stranglers but still has a sense of progress. It is already attracting wildly differing opinions from the faithful and media alike (it is a Stranglers album after all!), with the majority being well on the side of those in favour. I’m also guessing that, due to it not being instant, some of those who weren’t initially impressed may well yet succumb to the greatness on offer here.

As for The Stranglers themselves, well if it is pipe and slippers time for them, what a fitting epitaph this would make (especially with the soon to be revealed cover art!).

EiTC 1st March 2012.