The Stranglers

Stranglers in the Night

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They should have changed the name. No, this isn't the Stranglers, the band that made ten pretty great studio albums with Hugh Cornwell at the helm. His departure is huge, since his replacement, Paul Roberts (on vocals; ex-Vibrators and late-'70s punk contemporary John Ellis fills his guitar shoes), just can't cut it. He tries hard, but all the warmth of the last decade of Cornwell's singing (think "Always the Sun" and "Skin Deep") was too essential to the Stranglers post-punk days to call this their real 11th album. Bassist Jean Jacques Burnel should have taken over the vocals himself; he always did a great job on such songs as "Nice in Nice." In the Night is not a total stinker; after all, Burnel and Jet Black have been an inspired rhythm section for 20 years, and Dave Greenfield is still good at sticking in his little bits for style and emphasis. But Roberts' Jim Morrison-like voice is just too distracting, and the songwriting has fallen off without Cornwell as well. Even the much-maligned swan song 10 had a batch of winning songs on it (such as "Sweet Smell of Success"), but despite the pleasant ambience of "Southern Mountains," "This Town," "Heaven and Hell," and the opening "Time to Die" (which, with its talking bits, recalls Feline's opener "Midnight Summer Dream"), the combination of the over-baked Morrison-esque vocals and lesser hooks make In the Night an OK but unimportant non-starter. If it were a new band, we could look at it as potential. But so long as they keep the old name, we think of all the classic songs we loved, and this poor, last-legs horse they flog lost its life when Cornwell walked. Boo hoo.

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