KATE WILSON is underwhelmed by a band that’s had its day.
Corn Exchange, Thursday 8th March
If you thought that The Stranglers were just a bunch of ageing, washed-up punk rockers – well, you might be right.
In 1977, they stood at the fore-front of avant-garde punk. Fast forward to 2012 and the four men on stage wouldn’t seem out of place working in The Eagle.
Even from the beginning of the show it’s hard to believe their history as “punk pioneers”. The lethargy of the performance would give a sloth a run for its money, and the band themselves seemed blissfully unaware that opening the show with the track Burning Up Time might in fact be a tad ironic.
This fact was equally overlooked by the audience, which, being filled with Jeremy Clarkson lookalikes, looked rather like time had burned them.
However, if you saw past the cosmetic indelicacies of both the band and the audience, The Stranglers played some tight, high-quality music. The necessary crowd-pleasers of Golden Brown, No More Heroes and Peaches were well-placed within the set, and merited a far superior attempt at dancing than the insipid middle-aged mosh pit they got.
Similarly, the brash attempt at covering the Kinks’ classic All Day and All of the Night allowed the band to reveal a musical proficiency that elevated them beyond the usual stripped-down, unsophisticated arrangements. You get the impression that The Stranglers have learned something after 38 years.
Whilst the band may be growing old, tunes like this will never die.
The problem was that The Stranglers are on tour to promote their latest album. Their 19th album. And The Stranglers are still playing the same tunes. The “new” material limps on in the same musical aesthetic, plagiarising the band’s own sound to the extent that it seems almost parodic in its predictability.
And what’s worse is that the band seemed to know that the “new” material was the weakest of the night; by sandwiching the lead single between old favourites Walk On By and Something Better Change, the band betrayed a lack of confidence in their own innovation. The creative drive of the set was instead forced to come from scouring their extensive back-catalogue for more obscure numbers, which served to alienate a large portion of the fairweather fans.
But when they were good, they were really good. Yes, you were more likely to spot your Dad in your audience than that attractive girl in your lecture. And yes, the new material isn’t exactly progressive. But the fact that a band with so much cultural resonance can be found playing in such an intimate venue is an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. The Stranglers play an excellent live show – but make sure you keep your eyes shut.