“THANKS for coming to our 40th, see you at the 80th!” Stranglers bassist and sole remaining full-time original member Jean-Jacques Burnel greeted a sold-out Academy, on one of the first dates of the Guildford punk veterans’
Who’s to say they won’t make it to their Oak anniversary, such is the stubborn staying power of a group now onto their third frontman – founder member Hugh Cornwell having quit in 1990, and his replacement Paul Roberts having followed suit in 2006. The Stranglers’ latest lead vocalist is ex-Toy Dolls singer Baz Warne, who brought a suitably brutish quality to the band’s mean-sounding, often very un-PC oeuvre, the visceral menace of which belies the pop nous of a band with more hits than most of their punk peers combined.
The bass-heavy grind of Peaches culminated with pictures of pert female bottoms on the big screens – an unsubtle visual clue for anyone who still thinks the song is actually about peaches. Peasant in the Big Shitty saw mad-scientist like keys-player Dave Greenfield take the lead for a bit. Elsewhere Skin Deep and the unapologetically slimy Nice’n’Sleazy were conscience-bothering standouts.
Spanning 29 songs and all 17 of the band’s albums, you needed serious stamina to keep up. But if anyone here demonstrated fortitude, it was drummer Jet Black. Substituted for by his younger drum tech Jim MacAulay for the rump of the set, Black emerged to anticipatory chants from the crowd for an encore that included baroque-ish unlikely radio-staple Golden Brown next to Strangle Little Girl and Always The Sun. The sight of a 75-year-old huffing away manfully at the kit was all the visual encapsulation needed of The Stranglers’ famously dogged determination.