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The Stranglers - Giants (Album Review)

Thursday, 08 March 2012 Written by Yasmin La Ronde
The Stranglers - Giants (Album Review)

A sense of freedom, away from the niggling pressures of the mediated world, the Stranglers have released their 19th studio album, ‘Giants’.

ImageA follow up to their 2006 release, ‘Suite XVI’, it is the icing on the cake. Will their 19th studio album compete against their previous 18 Top 40 albums? The pressures of recording companies and constant chart reminders have created an album that hits on the most cultivated band of 2012. They have finally chucked the notion of getting that top number one single, and focused on having fun. The Stranglers are now doing what they do best and that is making music on their own terms, no more of this overpopulated pop music in mainstream today.

After a career spanning over five decades, they have put a spin back on punk-rock music – with several changes in line-up through to style changes, the band have remained faithful to the punk sound. ‘Giants’ is a versatile album in comparison to previous releases, but it isn’t any less eccentric than the last 18 album 2004’s ‘Norfolk Coast’ and 2006’s ‘Suite XVI’ left the Stranglers in a difficult position to compete against the two popular albums – if you thought that the last two albums made the band rediscover their knack in music, ‘Giants’ gets you pushing those speakers to up to eleven.

The early seventies punk rock makes an impact in The Stranglers 19th studio release. The band currently consists of J.J Burnel [bassist and lead vocal], Jet Black [drummer], alongside Dave Greenfield [keyboards] and Baz Warne [guitar and vocals]. They aren’t looking for mainstream acclamation, but a lot fun, and from ‘Giants’ it appears that they had a lot of fun recording.
Opening up the album is, ‘Another Camden Afternoon’, the first instrumental track in 20 years. JJ Burnel captivates and encloses you into the harmonious rhythm of ‘Another Camden Afternoon’. The feeling of freedom engulfs and the band shows you what they are capable of in the four minutes of soul giving instrumental music. An addictive bass line, accompanied by synthesized keys, delivers a melody that rings throughout the album. The twangy guitars by Baz Warne, solidifies the soul throughout and transforms it into a gentle yet bluesy track. It’s a simple track, but empowers the classic British blues entwined with the raw punk sound.
‘Freedom is Insane’ is a typical Stranglers title. It launches you into a tranquil and peaceful intro, waves lapping up upon the beach shore, entwined with Burnel’s smooth vocals – before the instrumentals kick in. There is nothing more classic than the typical Stranglers chorus, always with a twist, but it wouldn’t be a Stranglers album without it. The next track to indulge our ears is ‘Giants’, a track that combines the quirkiness of the Stranglers own style, embossed by the bluesy riffs of Warne. It adds a bit of swing, with the fantastic vocals produced by JJ. The mysterious and mellow vocals coincide with the dark melody brought forth by the bass line.
‘Lowlands’ kicks off with a great keyboard part, hitting on the early seventies punk rock style, it is a masterpiece of great music put together. Warne tells the picture of the band on tour, his vocals are daring and rough, just enough to get you mimicking along to the track.
‘Boom Boom’ an energetic and punchy song, it jumps out and hooks onto you. The chorus sticks to you as Warne relooks back into the woman in his life.
The jazz side of the album starts with, ‘My Fickle Resolve’; it is stripped down to nothing more than what it is. It is slow and harmonic; the melody captures the mood that is accompanied by the bass line and the smooth vocals of Warne. The song is loose and comforting, it is the type of track that is created by the acoustic bass line, it adds the swinging step that can only be delivered by very few.
‘Time was once on my side’, another hooky chorus by the Stranglers, hitting upon the ska punk in the middle, that jumps in during a most needed chord change. It is great vocals, that again, make this track what it is, almost pointing back at what made the Stranglers who they  are today. The ska punk influence in evident, almost sliding alongside UK ska band, the Specials. Burnel’s scratchy guitar runs smoothly throughout, striding with the distorted vocals of ‘time was once on my side’.
‘Mercury Rising’ is obviously different from the other tracks on the album. The bizarre keyboard sounds are what the Stranglers make great, it is perfect with Warne’s growling vocals and the yet again fantastic bass pinned beneath the overdubbed keyboards. It’s the weirdness of this track that grabs your attention, again, prominently influenced by the seventies.
‘Adios (Tango)’; it is strange to think this song is apart of this album, with the heavy guitar riffs and the transition to minor chords, it comes across as one of the strangest Stranglers songs to be noted. But, could this perhaps be one of the greatest songs delivered from the band? It is different, yet powerful and effective – unlike nothing the band has previously produced.

The final track of the album, ’15 Steps’ enriches your ears to the picking of the strings against the guitar, establishing a sense of freedom, reinforced by the enhancing vocals of Warne. It is hypnotic and one of the things that The Stranglers are best at, creating riffs that need to be heard, to be believed.
A dark, and mysterious album, but never have they sounded so prominent and triumphant. This is The Stranglers as we want and need them to be. So, if ‘Punk is Dead’ then why are the Stranglers still making evolutionary music? It is a triumphant album and evident that The Stranglers are a timeless band, ready for any revolutionary change.

The Stranglers UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu March 8th 2012 - Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Fri March 9th 2012 - Roundhouse, London
Sat March 10th 2012 - O2 Academy Birmingham, Birmingham
Mon March 12th 2012 - O2 Academy Oxford, Oxford
Tue March 13th 2012 - Portsmouth Pyramids, Portsmouth
Thu March 15th 2012 - Engine Shed, Lincoln
Fri March 16th 2012 - Brighton Dome, Brighton
Sat March 17th 2012 - O2 Academy Bristol, Bristol
Mon March 19th 2012 - Leamington Spa Assembly, Leamington Spa
Tue March 20th 2012 - G Live Guildford, Guildford
Thu March 22nd 2012 - O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Fri March 23rd 2012 - O2 Academy Sheffield, Sheffield
Sat March 24th 2012 - Manchester Academy 3, Manchester

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