Getting Slowly Strangled

The Stranglers concert, February 13, 2004, the Sport Hall,
Belgrade, Serbia


Review by Rada Djurica

Punk of the '70s and '80s is long dead, but The Stranglers are legendary, as are stories of their live performances with naked strippers on stage during the tour for their album Nice 'n' Sleazy. When The Stranglers were up to these hijinks. I was very young, but I remember hearing about it. And when became a teenager I knew The Stranglers were really cool. In the country where I grew up, The Stranglers were considered a band for intellectuals. In the UK, however, it was something completely different.

Most people who are not into this music, review this sort of musician as dirty old men today. Let's not forget that those "dirty men" attracted lots of young crowds during the '70s and '80s, rebellious young people who wanted a new system, not the old, "nice and sleazy" one.

Unfortunately, this time they did not mute their heavy subjects by offering more cheeky shots, balanced with the addition of, perhaps, a male stripper attending their live performances.

The hall where the concert was held was full of people. Old punks, neo punks, all kinds of people: younger and older.And let me tell you something. I wouldn't mind having such energy in my bed, even though I'm not sure how would I would handle those grays today. There is something about this generation of musicians. They definitely have the sort of raw, out of order energy, blended with a certain level of promiscuity. Comparable to a rave party with a giant ecstasy pill.
The Stranglers have always been subject to heavy criticism for misogynistic attitudes. A few experiments with antiwar themes and global political issues couldn't hide their feelings about sleaze in a sugarcoated wrapper. Politics offered pretty houses, pretty dreams, a sweet Barbie population, while from the inside politics was always a whore. Likewise, The Stranglers' aim in their music was to draw attention to serious truth with their ugly but sexual appearance and aggression. Occasionally, they also showed a nice touch of self-deprecation, such as the reggae slices on Nice 'n' Sleazy.

The band is now a mature and more complete unit, while the music is slightly different. Grungy rock 'n' roll has replaced anything fancy. A preoccupation with women has replaced interest in international conflict. Some of the new subject matter was surprisingly naïve. Subtle irony and sarcasm have always been their main weapons. Individuality and inspiration now cannot match the glittering punk of "Hanging Around" or "Grip." Than again, do you know any other band from their generation who has become better today, by staying in the same old, dusty shoes?

The last time I heard The Stranglers live was 15 years ago. After all those years, The Stranglers show potential for what they could do if they had a better material, showing potential future directions, not yet exploited enough. Of course, maybe the Stranglers in 2004 seems different because 15 years ago I was just a teenage fan and now I'm a grown-up freelance critic. Not of course that I did not enjoy it. We still all refer to their old song "No more heroes". Yet, The Stranglers are still raw and catchy. Could they be buying into their own macho appeal? I doubt it. Though, I really admire the attempt.