Stranglehold

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THE STRANGLERS never quite fitted any one pigeonhole people tried to bury them in.

Sure, they’re acclaimed as one of the original Four Kings of the punk movement and they still have the snarling attitude of the pogo fraternity, but this is a band that could always genuinely play.

None of your three-chord DIY, lo-fi here.

And as the band, now into its fourth decade, gears up for a UK tour this month, guitarist and vocalist Baz Warne explained the quartet has no intention of fading into the background.

“On this tour we’re not promoting anything and there are 16 albums to chose from, so the set list is a bit eclectic. ‘Course there are songs we can’t get away without playing, but we’re doing songs just to please our bloody selves - like a black jukebox”

The band certainly aren’t just resting on the laurels of that hefty back catalogue though, and are busy penning tracks for a new album - their first in five years.

“We’re still in the process of writing,” said Baz. “There’s five years worth of stuff on mobile phones and fag packets and notebooks of lyrics.

“There’s stuff recorded down the phone and I have a guitar by the bed - which always helps because no matter how good you are you can never remember those ideas the next day.

“Now we’re sorting the wheat from the chaff.”

There’s already a hint of what the new Stranglers songs will be like though - and that’s very much like the old Stranglers songs.

They’ve just released Decades Apart, a double CD of greatest hits, but which opens with brand new track Retro Rockets.

With JJ Burnel’s trademark barracuda bass sound and a driving beat, it feels like it could easily slip unnoticed onto the band’s classic early LPs.

The subject matter is just as nostalgic - being a rage about the static that passes for music on the radio these days.

“I don’t like a lot of what I hear,” admitted Baz. “It makes me feel old. The industry is shagged - it can never go back to the old days.”

The guitarist is also less than enamoured about the way the modern music scene is driven by the digital world.

“I don’t like the net - so much stuff gets leaked or stolen before the release date. I use it as much as anyone, and it’s great for some stuff, but not stealing the fruits of your labours.

“It’s great for hearing music instantly, but it’s lost all that romance of going to the record shop, buying an album and reading the sleeves notes on the bus back home - all that’s gone.”

Retro Rockets sounds like a band back on top of its game and Baz admits that now back as a fourpiece “everyone is playing to their strengths”.

Their live appeal certainly hasn’t diminished over the years, and many of the group’s new fans are the offspring of their audience first time around.

“We get parents bringing their children - there are lots of mohicans in the audience, but a lot of shiny bald pates too! Stranglers fans are very very loyal.”

Baz added: “Playing is all we got into music to do - apart from picking up girls - and we still have that overwhelming desire to play, to gel, to be part of that unit and make the noise that’s called the Stranglers.”

l The Stranglers play Nottingham’s Rock City on March 9 and Sheffield’s O2 Academy on March 25.