The Stranglers - Manchester Academy 1 - 6.3.04

It's been a while since we last heard anything from the Stranglers, but the lads have returned from the wilderness with their stupendous new album "Norfolk Coast". The ferocious looking five piece are back on the road and although not sold out, the Academy is filled with ex punks with their children, die hard fans ageing disgracefully plus the curious youngsters who are checking out the real deal. The muscular, peroxide lead singer Paul Roberts is more excitable and less menacing than his predecessor, curmudgeon Hugh Cornwell, but Roberts tenacious baritone is uniquely arresting fitting perfectly into the spirit of the Stranglers with the greatest of ease.

To show how confident the band are with their new material they kick things off with the title track of their new album. It's typically Stranglers with Dave Greenfields unmistakable keyboard motif, Jet Black's trademark drumming, JJ Burnel's pummelling bass and riffs aplenty from guitarist John Ellis. All the band are dressed in regulation black from head to toe and for such an experienced group they constantly improve with age. It would be a crime to dismiss their extensive body of work, so the classics (and there's plenty of them) are interspersed with the new songs and less well known, but equally as good album tracks from days of yore. "Skin Deep" and "Peaches" still sound as relevant and cutting edge as they did when performed over twenty years ago. It's also interesting to realize that when they play covers of "All Day And All Of The Night" and "Walk On By" their interpretations still retain the cocky arrogance and sauntering swagger that we've come to expect from the Stranglers. Their sensitive and reflective side can be sound during "Golden Brown" (arguably the most beautiful song ever written about heroin) and "Always The Sun" which features the most recognizable guitar solo of the night.

It's good hearing the new songs off "Norfolk Coast" played live like the gothic, psychedelic Dooresque "Tuckers Grave" and unconventional riposte to anger management "Lost Control" which sees the sinewy frontman letting rip in a moment of manic mayhem. After ninety minutes of first class showmanship and unflagging energy. The Stranglers finale with the explosive "Mine All Mine" and the creme de la creme par excellence "Heroes" who to me the Stranglers have always been.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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