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The Stranglers - Dark Matters (Album Review)

Friday, 17 September 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh

Before you drop the needle on side one, ‘Dark Matters’, the Stranglers’ 18th studio LP, is already notable for a number of reasons. It’s their first album since drummer and founding member Jet Black retired in 2015, and it arrives a year after keyboard maestro Dave Greenfield succumbed to Covid-19. It also precedes the band’s final tour, which is now scheduled for early 2022 after a previous postponement.

Despite his tragic passing, Greenfield remains present thanks to previously unreleased work, with eight of the 11 tracks featuring the keyboard artistry that set The Stranglers apart from their punk peers and, somewhat incredibly, earned derision back in the day.

Poignant single And If You Should See Dave... captures the band’s tribute to their lost friend in a slow, acoustic fashion that also reverberates elsewhere on the LP.

The Lines is another chance for reflection, this time about ageing, and Down is a bluesy discussion of depression. But it’s tracks littered with Greenfield’s brilliance that give ‘Dark Matters’ life.

Opener Water relies heavily on his keyboards, as well as JJ Burnel’s unmistakable bass, and the track impresses despite venturing into something more akin to dramatic, swirling prog-rock. The stop-start closer Breathe also ensures the album is bookended with proggy meandering, but again the staccato keys are a joy. If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love) also hints at something otherworldly with its lyrics alone: “It’s war and the Martians have landed.” It’s all very old school.

Stallion benefits from a simple, brilliant riff and the verses kick ass, even if the chorus doesn’t scale the same heights. The rowdier Payday features some great guitar and pounding bass that complement Greenfield’s keys perfectly—it’s a classic slice of Stranglers magic. The Last Men on the Moon, though, stands tall among its companions. Burnel’s twanging bass ensures the track has some dark energy to it, with Greenfield stealing the largely instrumental show.

At times ‘Dark Matters’ can feel a little like ageing rock stars trying to rekindle the long gone past, but we’re left in no doubt as to who this is. For the large part it’s way better than we might have expected. Most of all, though, if this is the final curtain call, then it’s a fitting tribute to Greenfield’s genius. Without him, The Stranglers just won’t be the same again.

The Stranglers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue January 25 2022 - LINCOLN Engine Shed
Thu January 27 2022 - ABERDEEN Music Hall
Fri January 28 2022 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Sat January 29 2022 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Mon January 31 2022 - STOKE Victoria Hall
Tue February 01 2022 - NORWICH Nick Rayns LCR
Thu February 03 2022 - GUILDFORD G Live
Fri February 04 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Sat February 05 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Mon February 07 2022 - WARRINGTON Parr Hall
Tue February 08 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Thu February 10 2022 - CARDIFF Great Hall - Cardiff Uni
Fri February 11 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat February 12 2022 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Mon February 14 2022 - PORTSMOUTH Guildhall
Tue February 15 2022 - SOUTHEND Cliffs Pavilion
Thu February 17 2022 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome
Fri February 18 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Newcastle City Hall
Sat February 19 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Mon February 21 2022 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue February 22 2022 - READING Reading Hexagon
Thu February 24 2022 - SHEFFIELD Sheffield City Hall
Fri February 25 2022 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Sat February 26 2022 - CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange

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