Finally a sign of life of The Stranglers from the South-East of England. In 1974 a couple of friends from Guildford got together to form the Guildford Stranglers and played pub rock. The word Guildford was soon dropped from the name and the four of them really took off as The Stranglers. Since 1977 the guys regularly released new records and songs like “Peaches”, “No more Tears”, “Hanging around”, “Nice ‘n Sleazy”, “Golden Brown” or “Always the Sun” are known to everyone who listens to rock or post-punk. The outstanding element in the typical Stranglers style was always the bass guitar that played the melody line while the guitar mostly contributed only the rhythm. In 2012 after the release of the 17th studio album Giants it became a bit quiet around the band. Hugh Cornwell had already left in 1990 when the sound of the group became too pop-heavy for him. Drummer Jet Black made it known in 2015 that he was too old for concerts, but is still listed as a permanent member. His place was taken by Jim Macauley as live drummer. Keyboardist Dave Greenfield unfortunately passed away in 2020 as a result of a Covid-19 infection. That left bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel as the only old member. So you couldn’t really expect new material anymore, even if the band toured successfully with new members once in a blue moon. So I was all the more pleased when I read about the new release Dark Matters in the relevant magazines. As an old Stranglers fan, the disc was of course a must for my collection, even more so that it was released on vinyl. Since we ordered the LP directly on the Stranglers’ homepage we even got to enjoy a bonus CD called Dave Greenfield – A Tribute with eight live tracks. The Dark Matters album was packed in a cover which reminded me a bit of the 86 Dreamtime album. Four stone figures (Moai) of the Easter Islands in front of the colored background of the Milky Way, black frame around it, the typical Stranglers lettering bright red on it and ready was a very appealing cover. Now only the musical content had to convince…
It starts with “Water” … a keyboard surface on which soon a few bass notes were heard in which a cutting guitar line digs. This forms the intro to a driving number that lives from the pumping bass of J.J. Burnel. The typical almost swinging keyboard chords are present as ever. This starts already extremely appealing. Typical Stranglers. The second track “This Song” starts with a snarling bass riff. Just as driving as “Water” before. The guitar contributes a great rhythm riff. Hallelujah – it can go on like this. It sounds like around 1980. The third song is a greeting to their unfortunately deceased keyboard player Dave Greenfield. “And If You Should See Dave…”. Held in acoustic garb and touching lyrics. “If you should see Dave, tell him hello from me”. The following track, kept in midtempo starts with a voice, slightly alienated by a vocoder and an electric guitar line. “If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love).” For once, the bass doesn’t come to the fore here. The following “No Man’s Land” begins with a funky bass line that runs through the verses. In the chorus is nothing more with funk, the gallops driving fast forward. Always nicely alternating, this is a great song. Only with an acoustic guitar “The Lines” begins. The short quiet song is about the explanations of the wrinkles in the face of the narrator. Each wrinkle, each line on the face tells a little story from the past. Drifting again in typical Stranglers garb, “Payday” comes around the corner. Payday includes from the usual ingredients bass/keyboard even a small swinging middle section that fits well into the overall picture of the song and provides variety. With a quiet piano and an acoustic guitar “Down” begins, almost in the style of a Udo Lindenberg. The track would be 100% suitable for a German adaptation of our beloved panic rocker. The quiet subliminal mood remains throughout the song. A buzzing bass introduces “The last Men on the Moon”. Again typically Stranglers style, the track propels forward. The penultimate track “White Stallion” begins with a fast bass intro and choir vocals. The title is program here. The piece gallops proverbially like the white stallion only so there and should provide in relevant clubs for full dance floors. And again and again the concise bass run of Burnel appears which drives almost every song forward. The conclusion of the album is “Breathe”. At first only a plucked acoustic guitar into which an electric interweaves, the whole on a soft keyboard carpet in the background. The voice almost whispers. The track builds up slowly and comes every now and then to a peak, where it swells again shortly after. Rhythmically arrested in a swaying ¾ beat of an English waltz. A steady up and down throughout the song.
In the overall assessment, their 18th studio work Dark Matters is a class album, which picks up very many echoes of the old days of the Stranglers. As a minimal point to complain would be from my point of view only that the very old songs partly sounded a lot rougher and more oblique, but this is due to the fact that these old tracks in the punk heyday in the late 70s just about 40 years ago. In this day and age, this is a great album which, in contrast to the last albums, goes back to the roots. On most of the tracks Dave Greenfield was still involved, which you can hear on the swinging organ.
How much one has missed the music of the Stranglers, respectively which status the Stranglers still have in the music world can be seen in the fact that Dark Matters entered the download charts shortly after release at number one, clawed itself there, and the latest Iron Maiden LP Senjutsu, as well as the reissue of Metallica‘s Black Album on the places relegated what are not the worst references.
4,5 / 5
The Stranglers – Dark Matters
CD: € 15,99
Vinyl: € 29,95
And If You Should See Dave…
If Something’s Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)
No Mans Lands
The Last Men On The Moon