Thursday, 12 January 2012

CD Column in The Daily Yomiuri on 10th February 2007

By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Suite XVI
Sideout, 2,300 yen

If this album had been recorded by a bunch of 20-year-old punks, music journalists would be hailing them as the next big thing to hit the music scene.

Yet this is the Stranglers, who released their first album way back in 1977 and have a drummer who is aged, er, 68.

As one of the bands that emerged from the British punk scene in the 1970s, the Stranglers celebrate 30 years since Rattus Norvegicus with the release of their 16th album, aptly titled Suite XVI.

The rump of the original band is still there, with original members Jean-Jacques Burnel on bass and vocals, Dave Greenfield on keyboards and Jet Black on drums joined by Baz Warne on vocals and guitar.

Warne's second album with the band since joining them almost seven years ago sees the band's new frontman doing a fine job as singer and songwriter, though Burnel chips in with some choice nuggets, such as I Hate You.

After so many albums, it's tempting to suggest that the Stranglers are preaching to the converted, but Suite XVI has a surprisingly fresh sound that will appeal to old and new listeners alike.

As ever, the band's defining sound is Dave Greenfield's organ, and his soaring runs up and down the keyboard swirl around the album without ever becoming overbearing.

The opening three numbers set a strong pace, with Spectre of Love and She's Slipping Away particularly catchy tunes. Bless You (Save You, Spare You, Damn You) is the high point of the record, though some Stranglers fans might think it a little overblown.

Summat Outanowt is a rasping number that will take diehards of the band's punk days back to when Burnel was belting out London Lady and Five Minutes.

See Me Coming might be familiar to some Japanese listeners as it is taken from Burnel's musical contribution to Gankutsuou, an anime series based on The Count of Monte Cristo, broadcast about two years ago on TV Asahi.

The domestic release contains two bonus tracks, Instead of This and Death and Night and Blood, both recorded live in London in 2005.

It's been 15 years since the group's Japanese fans have been able to enjoy such live gems, so with the release of Suite XVI, not to mention Burnel's love of karate, it would seem that a visit to these shores is long overdue.

Reformation Post TLC
Slogan/Hostess, 2,415 yen

Another album and another lineup for the man who is, was and always will be the Fall--Mark E. Smith.

Reformation Post TLC sees Smith in a typically eclectic mood, which is just as the band's followers have liked Fall albums over the past 28 years.

The opening track, Over Over sets the pace well, with Smith's trademark vocals complementing the driving backing provided by his latest recruits.

A cover of Merle Haggard's White Line Fever merges into Insult, a stream-of-consciousness Captain Beefheartesque odyssey that starts in Los Angeles and ends in the rolling hills of Lancashire, England.

Smith has compared his role in the Fall to that of a football manager. But after a good start, the Salfordian's "team" seems to fade in the last quarter, though Systematic Abuse offers a brief respite for fans.

Like Manchester City, Smith's favorite football team, the Fall are still midtable Premier League quality and likely to remain so for a few more years to come.

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