A legacy in black....
Always a fan, a review was on the cards after seeing Hugh Cornwell live in December 2019 at a Jethro Tull concert bizarrely, although he left The Stranglers in 1990. Then the shock of learning only last week that Dave Greenfield had passed away, a victim of Covid-19, spurred this tribute to the unique band who trod their own path dressed in black.
23 UK top 40 singles, 17 UK top 40 albums and an attitude that set them apart from the norm with off-kilter vocals, clever lyrics, JJ Burnel’s melodic bass, Hugh Cornwell’s restrained yet effective guitar and the swirling "Doors" like keyboard arpeggios which combined to form a strangely attractive allure with edgy hooks. Jet Black's drums kept them tight but never dominated, rather it was the bass that drove them on with a great spirit of intelligent rebelliousness that commanded you to listen!
They had a dark, brooding and intense presence, yet many of their songs were also a tongue-in-cheek observation of the realities of life rather than tearing it down, with profound and sometimes seedy life commentaries. When their record label did not want to release Golden Brown (1981) because it was not in their usual style, they insisted and luckily it became a massive success (actually a romantic song about a golden-skinned girl from the Med rather than substance abuse); it was even used for a dance on Strictly Come Dancing.
Although I was never a fan of the band's name; they were all too old for punk when starting out and keyboard wizard, Dave Greenfield, had a prog-rock moustache that stood out a mile! Maybe it would have been better to leave the “l” out and be “The Strangers” as they didn't fit the mould of existing genres, they were unique and maybe defined the alternative rock label.
We have tried to capture the sound and energy with a choice of live videos from Youtube, click on the highlighted song, but have embedded a live "Midnight Summer Dream" (1983) and its recorded version for comparison within the review, a song with its mystical question on life's journey.
Their early songs (1977), "Hanging around", "Get a Grip", "No More Heroes", "Tank" and their only cover "Walk on By" took hold of us with an emotive power, still present with later songs like "Always the Sun".
There is a reason some bands and their songs "hang around" in our imagination for years, and the Stranglers are one of those - there is that spark that does not burn out...
see The Stranglers for more