Times are hard for The Stranglers. In 20 years they've come a long way from being imprisoned for causing a riot in Nice or tying up a critical journalist in a Portuguese desert. Today they can cite Anne Diamond and Dickie Davies as fans. Having lost lead singer Hugh Cornwell and their major record label in the past five years, the band are in danger of terminal decline. Good as it is, About Time might slow but won't arrest that slide.
Three years on from the last studio LP, The Stranglers have mellowed, but not all for the worse. Paul Roberts has effortlessly filled Cornwell's boots, and ex-Vibrators guitarist John Ellis's elevation to full-time Strangler has given them a coherence they seemed to lack on 1992's Stranglers In The Night.
They still write great rock tracks, notably "Golden Boy and "Still Life" - a Hammond-driven "Always The Sun" for the Nineties. Best of all is "Face", a pop classic featuring long-time fan Nigel Kennedy. Lyrically, though, the L.P. is weak, particularly the sixth-form cliches in "She Gave It All".
The Stranglers are starting to show their age. Where "Golden Brown" was allegedly a paean to life with heroin, About Time's "Paradise Row" is influenced by the fight to prevent the M11 link road. Maybe they're no longer knocking out the riffs that proved irresistible to the likes of Elastica, but they can still be proud of About Time. It won't win them any new fans but Anne Diamond will be happy.
AGAINST LAST LP ****
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