TV Party - S

STRANGLERS, THE - On Stage, On Screen {MVD} I really haven’t paid much attention to THE STRANGLERS since Hugh Cornwell left to pursue his solo career. I failed to see how anyone could match his vocal style, his menace or his unique ability as a guitarist. I didn’t know it took two people to replace him – a rather good guitarist and a vocalist who shares Cornwell’s vocal style and, while lacking his menace, has a great stage manner. He’s confident, vaguely arrogant and comes over as a natural frontman.
Nor did I realise that in a live setting, the new band (new to me – Cornwell left some 25 years ago) is still an engaging and entertaining experience, if a little less confrontational.
This gig was filmed at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in December 2005 and features both an electric and acoustic set.
The electric set is packed with crackers. ‘Skin Deep’ is majestic and meandering, ‘Duchess’ (the first STRANGLERS record I bought and still their best tune) sounded strong and spirited while ‘Burning Up Time’ was punchy, sneering and the set highlight. The encore included a stunning ‘Tank’ that’s propelled along by that kick-in-the-head bass line and almost recalled the intensity of the original line-up. Oddly, ‘No More Heroes’ was hit and miss and ‘Always The Sun’ sounded more like U2. And, only one song with JJ Burnel on vocals?
The acoustic set starts with ‘Instead Of This’ that features bongos and JJ’s vocal coming on like a menacing Leonard Cohen! ‘Dutch Man’ was the acoustic highlight - a neat swing vibe making the track quite superb. Have to say though, after the impressive electric set, this came on a bit too sombre.
Both sets were filmed on multiple cameras, probably about 12 including some in the crowd. The editing got a little too frantic, making it hard to focus for too long on any one band member.
Extra features come in the shape of a mini-film entitled ‘Norfolk Coast’. It stars JJ in the role of a man going through a divorce in London. Other members of the band are featured in flash backs to his Norfolk childhood where some odd and disturbing Wicker Man-esque scenes of branding occur. Apparently it’s an award winning film and features the late Susannah York in her final role. JJ play’s his part well and suitably, the film has a dark feel full of death and murder.
For me though, the whole DVD is about that bristling electric set. There is probably a whole generation that has grown up to disregard THE STRANGLERS as a Punk band - a whole generation who never saw the band with Hugh Cornwell and never got bruised by a pummelling live take of ‘Death And Night And Blood’ or tainted by ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’. There are probably many of the original Finchley Boys who also disregarded the band when Cornwell left.
On the strength of this performance, both the old Finchley Boys and the new upstarts could do a lot worse than revisit the might of JJ’s bass and those cutting, original songs in a live environment.  (24.05.14)

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