A bittersweet tour based on the new album from The Stranglers

by Guest contributor

 February 16, 2022

It’s not often a band produces one of the finest albums of their career 44 years after their first hit, but The Stranglers have always been a unique proposition.

Rising from the UK punk scene of the mid-70s, the band quickly established themselves as their own thing, due in no small part to the melodic basslines conjured by founding member Jean-Jaques Burnell as well as Dave Greenfield’s singular and baroque keyboard sound.

Now, nearly five full decades after their formation, the band – Jean-Jacques Burnel, Baz Warne and Jim Macaulay – are heading back on the road to support Dark Matter, their 18th studio album that saw them achieve one of the highest chart placings ever, proving that even after all this time, they’re still as relevant and essential as ever.

They’ll be at Reading’s Hexagon theatre on Tuesday, February 22, as part of that tour.

The group’s success has been bittersweet though, with the tragic passing of Greenfield during the recording of the record last year.

They very nearly finally called it a day as a result, but instead pushed on to finish what has become both a tribute and an epitaph to their fallen brother.

It was the first Stranglers album made remotely. Work had started back in early 2019, with 10 days in the studio before a world tour. Covid and the passing of Dave meant work was delayed.

Baz says: “We really didn’t know what we were going to do, but it became apparent that we should finish the album at the very least.

“That threw up a lot of questions on the technicalities of how we would do it, but we all have studios in our houses, so the engineer coached us through it and of course we had the luxury of time, with no constraints or deadlines.

“We worked diligently on it, but it wasn’t easy not being in the same place as each other, so that it came out as well as it did is a testament to how much of a team effort it was.

“We were united in our grief, but there was a freedom there with the lack of deadlines.”

Dave wroekd on eight of the tracks, but his work on the keyboards had to be augmented to finish them.

“Rhe essence of what you hear, especially the very strong lead lines, that’s all Dave,” Baz explains.

“It took a good two or three months before we could contemplate doing anything though, to be quite honest. It was an awful time, but once we started listening back to what we had already done though, it was quite obvious that it had to see the light of day.

“He played some fantastic stuff on those tracks and it’s also both a testament to him and an epitaph too.”

JJ says that this response was shaped by the way in which they’d worked together for so long.

“When you’ve been involved with someone for over 45 years, it’s a huge loss, not only as a working colleague, but as a member of the family,” he explains. “The f*cker even actually lived in my house for over nine months at one point, until I told him he could find his own place.

“He honestly hadn’t thought of that, so was like ‘yeah, okay.’

“Dave was on the autistic spectrum, which some people really struggle with, and others thrive on. He was one of the latter, but he also didn’t have any filters, so he wouldn’t realise that you were falling asleep when he was taking an hour to answer a simple question.”

Baz adds that Dave would be very proud of the end result.

“He was a huge part of what people would class as The Stranglers’ trademark sound, both him and JJ, so to lose one half of that was very difficult, but his presence very much looms large still,” he says.

JJ admits that although there had been times when the band had thought about stopping, their initial aim to complete the album was superceded by events.

“Our agent called to say that we were selling more tickets, so we realised that a lot of people still wanted to see us,” he says.

“Dave being Dave, had inspired so many musicians to study him and I had actually played with one of those disciples in the studio about 20 years ago, so we auditioned him over Zoom and then he met up with the rest of the band in person.

“His playing wasn’t in question, but he had to fit with the band and get on with everyone too, which I’m pleased to say he did brilliantly.

“Dave has left the biggest shoes to fill, but we know now that we have the guy to step in. We can never replace him and wouldn’t want to, but he’s left a legacy which can now be followed.”

The Stranglers could easily settle for being a heritage act, but instead you have a Top 5 album. How important is it for you to keep challenging yourselves to create new music?

“The one thing we are adamant about is that we’ll never become a heritage act,” Baz says. “I’m not knocking anyone who does it as people have a living to make and if there’s a market for it, f*cking go for it, but we write new material and we still have something to say.

“I think people want that too, as Dark Matter went Top 5, which is the first time a Stranglers album has done that in nearly 40 years. There were a few champagne corks going off in my house the night we got that news.”

He adds: “We are still very much in contact with Pam Greenfield, Dave’s widow too of course, so there were some emotional phone calls too. It’s a cliche, but The Stranglers are a family. We fight, we argue but there’s a deep bond and love there, so no matter what, we get through it, because that’s what families do.”

Tuesday’s gig at The Hexagon has sold out, but some returns may be available. For more details, log on to: whatsonreading.com

For full tour details and more information visit www.thestranglers.co.uk

Овај унос је објављен под Интервју, Приказ концерта, Прикази у штампи, Рецензије албума, Novosti. Забележите сталну везу.

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