Friday, September 3, 2021

Dark Matters That Are Detectable - The Stranglers Show Us How-To

I was coming of age when "Peaches" by The Stranglers hit and was hooked. Part garage- and punk-rock and later meandering into synth-pop, but always with a punch and irresistible hooks, the ratters delivered. And now 44 years later, an almost decade-long wait for a new album, The Stranglers are back and I'm still hooked. Next Friday (9/10) "DARK MATTERS" drops and judging from the three so far released teaser singles, we are in for a fabulous 18th album.

And no, it's not really a comeback, and more of putting the icing on top of an almost 50-year long career as one of the leading UK bands.  It is also a celebration of their much-missed keyboarder Dave Greenfield, who succumbed to Covid19 a year ago.

“We had already recorded most of the album with him and during the lockdowns, our only wish was to complete it as a fitting tribute to his life and work. I consider this to be one of our finest recordings,” says the only remaining original member, JJ Burnel. 

 Eight of the eleven tracks carry Dave's signature keys sound and the band added an honest tribute to him with the first single of the album, ‘And If You Should See Dave…’

Even though melancholic in its lyrics

It would be nice to say hello
This is where your solo would go

If you should see Dave

the song has a warm, twangy feel to it and embraces the old friend who helped define the sounds of the band for 45 years. The video, a cruise by all the legendary rock venues of sun-drenched Los Angeles, has also some worthwhile details to discover, be it the disappearing rats or a hint to their fifth album "GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE MENINBLACK," with its instrumental "Waltzinblack" that prominently features Greenfield and served as the opener to The Stranglers' live shows. 

Burnel and Baz Warne, the surviving members finished "DARK MATTERS" remotely during the lockdown with the help of their longtime producer Louie Nicastro. For an insight into the production of the new disc watch the behind-the-scene videos at the bottom of the blog. 
"DARK MATTERS" are not only part of our universe, but quite often, especially with the intellect of The Stranglers transcend into other spheres. Without darkness, we could not see the light and vice versa. Not everything can be explained, some mysteries stay in the dark, like the origins of the Easter Island moai for instance that now adorn the cover of the new disc.  

The second teaser single changes pace and some of the electronics with a fabulous Dave Greenfield, embedded into "If Something's Gonna Kill Me (It Might As Well Be Love)" hint at Kraftwerk or even to the Doors' Ray Manzarek. As to the lyrics, we all know that the variables are interchangeable, the Martians can be a metaphor for a rapidly changing environment, for a virus crippling the world, or simply for a fill-in of your own angst. 

You wake me up one morning and the world has changed
It’s war and the Martians have arrived
The world goes in meltdown and I miss you
The world goes in meltdown and I miss you
Earthquakes may happen
And the heavens open
If something’s gonna kill me
It might as well be love

 Even though a two-year-old live version with Greenfield is available on YouTube, a studio version of "This Song" from the new album is the third teaser single. Nottingham Forest football legend Stuart Pearce, a long-time fan of the band, guest-stars as a Bond-like character, trying to escape some free-runners and ultimately realizing that he has to confront them head-on. 

 JJ calls "DARK MATTERS" in an interview with John Robb, 

"the most grown-up album The Stranglers ever did with no need to subscribe to anyone's ideas what the band should be."

 Next Friday we can verify that and I'm excited to do so. If "DARK MATTER" is ordered from the band's website, buyers will also receive a special bonus disc a Tribute to Dave Greenfield, containing 8 previously unreleased songs featuring him. 
 The Stranglers are also going forward with what they call their 47-stop "Final Full Tour" - originally scheduled for last year - starting in October in Belgium and finishing it up before Christmas in France,  and then in early 2022 with a run-through the UK. Dave will be replaced by one of his disciples that "learned of the Keyboard man's fingertips."

For a full tour schedule and to pre-order the album with the bonus disc, visit The Stranglers' website.  
Behind the scenes - the grandiose "White Stallion" and below "Payday"


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