25 March 2015
The Stranglers’ monolithic career has already sired several weighty tomes, including David Buckley’s exhaustive unauthorised biography, No Mercy, and former frontman Hugh Cornwell’s candid A Multitude Of Sins. More recently, Robert Endeacott’s Peaches: A Chronicle Of The Stranglers 1974-1990 presented a diary-style, fan’s-eye view of The Men In Black’s Cornwell-led era; easily digestible, it couldn’t be more different from Phil Knight’s Strangled, wherein the author studies the band’s late-70s heyday with the scientific precision one might expect from someone whose day job is a professional engineer.
Hardly a standard rock “biography”, Strangled instead aims to explain why, despite their considerable commercial success, The Stranglers are often marginalised in critical analyses of punk. Across just two sprawling, thesis-like chapters, Knight examines both the accusations of misogyny blighting the band’s early years and the infamous acts of violence (such as JJ Burnel’s physical assault on rock critic Jon Savage) that negatively impacted upon The Stranglers’ relationship with the media for years thereafter.
Drawing upon scholarly source material from the likes of French theologian Jacques Ellul, Strangled is sometimes impenetrably opaque. Readers capable of handling Knight’s lexicon-devouring prose will, however, be enlightened by his insightful retrospective critiques of the band’s LPs up to and including the notorious, UFO-obsessed (The Gospel According To) The Meninblack.
Zero Books | ISBN 9871782797975, 171 pages
Reviewed by Tim Peacock