The Stranglers have survived five decades of various incarnations. Jean-Jacques Burnel (bass) and Dave Greenfield (keyboards) remain as a permanent part of the line-up, but because of health reasons original drummer Jet Black is now an occasional performer-and, sadly the influential Hugh Cornwell has been absent since 1990. Guitarist Baz Warne (a member since 2000) and Burnel now share the main vocal duties with Greenfield chipping in as well. Meanwhile, Jim MacAulay steps in on drums to make up a quartet that played on their 2016 date at Cardiff University.
The band was delivering the colossal contents of the breathtaking 1978 album Black & White (which is described in some quarters as the first post punk record). The tunes of this multi-faceted work and the main element of the free white vinyl EP that accompanied the original release were revisited in the Welsh capital. Hugh Cornwell was all over this long player so could The Stranglers pull it off without the great man?
The answer is yes! The quartet makes for a musical backdrop that still sounds alternative and otherworldly while retaining The Stranglers stamina and style as constructors of catchy tunes fed through a number of different tempos. The playing is still first class and the trademark JJ physical moves ice the sound of the sewer with his bass delving deep and then deeper and deeper! Jean-Jacques has influenced many who have followed (including Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order fame)-and, his unique approach is still worth the admission. Greenfield slips through the gears and his electronic wizardry is at the core of the material-offering an edge that always had The Stranglers stand apart from their 70’s peers. There is so much industry within the contents of this remarkable record and Warne and MacAulay help bring the contents to the table. Warne is an affable front man who puts in a shift and his interpretation of the material is a worthy one. Meanwhile, precise percussion allows for the other three performers to have their moments in the spotlight.
The Stranglers offer individuals the chance to shine but as a collective they work as a tight unit and Black and White was given another deserved opportunity to be the centre of attraction. The Stranglers honoured: Tank, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Outside Tokyo, Sweden (All quiet in the eastern Front), Hey! (Rise of the Robots), Toiler on the Sea, Curfew, Threatened, In the Shadows, Do you Wanna?, Death and night and Blood (Yukio) and Enough Time. Even though the presence of Cornwell and Black would have offered more joy this effort was a splendid one that could not be criticised as regards the personnel playing.
The lads then headed through a chapter of classics and also threw in some material from the more contemporary era. Amongst the anthems: The Black & White bonus EP gem and single Walk on By led the lustre-with other old favourites being: (Get A) Grip (on Yourself), Peaches, Something Better Change, Princess of the Streets, 5 Minutes, Go Buddy Go, Burning up Time, No more Heroes Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Oz) and Always the Sun. Of the more recent post Cornwell catalogue the likes of Relentless, Lost Control, A Soldier’s Diary and Freedom is Insane were the pick of the pack.
This was a spirited effort that at two hours in length was well appreciated by a crowd that united the die-hard veterans with a much younger breed! We thank The Stranglers for their potent performance- now please bring us the stage delights of The Raven and The Gospel according to the Meninblack.