The Stranglers

Giants

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Their first release since lead vocalist Paul Roberts' departure, the Stranglers' 17th studio album, Giants, sees one of the '70s punk scene's most enduring acts slip gracefully into grumpy old age. Indeed, with drummer Jet Black having turned 73 in 2012, the days of punching journalists and inciting riots are long gone, and instead, the newly trimmed four-piece choose to embrace their advancing years with a stream of world-weary if slightly cynical words of wisdom. The title track sees bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, who shares the vocals with relative spring chicken Baz Warne throughout the album, offer his best Leonard Cohen impression on a swirling, organ-led ode to "how things ain't what they used to be" ("Once there were giants walking amongst us/now I have to deal with little men with little hearts), a nostalgic theme also present on the '80s 2-Tone-meets-'90s-Brit-pop "Time Was Once On My Side." To their credit, the band aren't always so curmudgeonly in their music. Like its name suggests, "Adios -- Tango" is a bilingual Latin number which has shades of Santana's early-2000s comeback while "My Fickle Resolve" is an ominous slice of lounge-bar jazz which could have been lifted from Pulp's under-rated This Is Hardcore. However, the quartet only really appear comfortable when they stick to what they know best, such as the opener "Another Camden Afternoon," a jam session instrumental which neatly interplays Burnel's trademark melodic basslines with Warne's bluesy guitar riffs, and the pulsing power pop of "Freedom Is Insane." The Stranglers may be approaching their 40th anniversary, but while it's unlikely to find an audience outside their die-hard following, Giants prove that there's still life left in them yet.

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