The Stranglers sound has, remarkably well, it could be argued, matured significantly over the years. It would be reductionist to review a 2012 release from the band and continue to compare their sound to that of releases from 1977. “Giants” does, however, bear all the hallmarks of the personality that admirers of the band continue to respect. From the throbbing, strident bass line and instantly recognisable keyboard of ‘Another Camden Afternoon’ instrumental opening, to insanely melodic, yet brooding ‘Freedom is Insane’ there is no mistaking that this is an album by The Stranglers. And that, to many, is their strength. This band has undergone many a metamorphosis in both line up and sound over their history, but at no time have they been influenced by whatever is considered chic.
There has always been, and always will be, we should hope, The Stranglers “sound”. That sound is evident throughout “Giants”. No nonsense, motornik drumming from Jet Black, instantly recognisable keyboard runs from Dave Greenfield and, of course, the authoritative bass of Jean Jacques Burnel. ‘Lowlands’ and ‘Time Was Once On My Side’ features all these, and the scratching, scything guitar riffs that characterise some of their earlier work. Baz Warne’s vocal delivery complements these characteristics in the snarl and swagger that he has made his own within the group. Even slower, gentler paced tunes such as ‘My Fickle Resolve’ featuring that omnipresent bass and handsome keyboard sound, are stamped with “the sound”, but with an additional perception that comes with maturity.
‘Mercury Rising’ is a quirky piece that appears to spin off in tangents and changes of approach that only a band as self-assured as The Stranglers could effectively achieve. The term “heavy metal tango” has been applied to ‘Adios (Tango)’ and on hearing it for the first time the listener can understand why. The vocals ooze passion, melancholy and virility, in an approach, again, only The Stranglers could accomplish. The album closes with ’15 Steps,’ which is lively and fresh yet still holds that familiar danger.
Any criticism, however redundant, that The Stranglers sound has mellowed or become trite over the decades should be dismissed immediately on hearing “Giants”. There is a palpable energy and attitude to the album which goes some way to indicate a band who are not prepared to compromise their art. Indeed, the album cover itself, should dispel any myths that the band have become diluted.
The production throughout is razor-sharp yet unrefined, which is the perfect medium for this assortment of tunes. One could argue that the highest compliment anyone could pay would be to say that there is conventional, pedestrian music, and then there is The Stranglers. Free from expectation, free from outside pressure, simply, The Stranglers.