The Stranglers

On Stage On Screen

BY Ralph ElawaniPublished Feb 21, 2013

On Stage on Screen showcases the Stranglers' performance at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on December 2, 2005, as well as an acoustic set and J.J. Burnel's first ever role in a feature film. These three events must have seemed worth capturing in the moment, as the band had recently entered the top 40 for the first time in nearly ten years with the title track of 2004 album Norfolk Coast. The Stranglers predated new wave, starting out in 1974 as a pub rock act with a unique twist and a handful of remarkable singles. They later met with considerable success in the early '80s, with a string of brilliant albums, and then for a long period of time were neither edgy nor particularly engaging. Along the way, after Hugh Cornwell's departure, came a singer named Paul Roberts, whose stage moves were a cross between David Bowie and Ted Nugent, a slightly unbearable feature that radiates throughout this sold-out performance. Though Roberts' moves and aura get in the way pretty quickly, the sound quality is beyond reproach, displaying all the subtleties of (ex-Toy Dolls) guitarist Baz Warne's playing. As it is predictable, the best thing the Stranglers can do some 30 years after their establishment is live up to the idea people have of them. The editing stands out as very "cubist," to say the least (or beyond gruesome, if you despise euphemisms), as the camera angles keep changing every time the band hit a note, which makes for a mind-boggling swirl of discontinuity, the theatricality of which could have made this show part of a Budweiser event, perked up by Roberts' awkward, shirtless jump kicks, dance moves, ripped abs and tribal tattoos. As far as the acoustic set goes, the call of "Kumbaya" could have been put on the back-burner for a few more years, even though these tamed-down versions constitute the conga-banging Roberts' greatest vocal achievements. Just when you thought you were through, after hearing acoustic versions of songs that should have been performed during the electric set, you finally get to a well-intentioned but mildly boring short. In a nutshell, Norfolk Coast tells the tale of a man named Warner (Burnel), who sees his life crumbling when his wife commits suicide, throwing herself off a cliff. The main issue is Warner's inability to deal with his past as a child abused by a satanic cult led by members of his family. As this gigantic rip-off of any Sunday evening crime reconstruction culminates with a predictable ending, Warner goes back to his father's cottage and offs the old man.

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