This latest Stranglers hold is no less gripping

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IF you’re paranoid about your age but love music look away now.

The Stranglers – who return to Sheffield’s O2 Academy tomorrow – are approaching their 40th anniversary.

Not that the landmark number bothers founder member and bassist JJ Burnel.

“We’ll carry on until the creative juices have run out,” he confirms as the band tour latest album Giants.

And there lies part of the reason why there’s no end in sight for an act that has always been more than the sum of its so-called punk parts; they’re simply not prepared to rest on past glories.

In fact, the original men in black are enjoying success like the heyday. “We had a convention at the end of last year,” says JJ. “It was a massive success; the whole event sold out in three/ four days which was amazing. Fans came from all over the world, a fantastic weekend.”

Those who missed the actual event are being catered for in a 2CD/DVD package capturing the weekend action (available from the band website stranglers.net).

Giants follows albums Norfolk Coast and Suite XIV, worthy additions to a legacy that includes Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes, The Raven and The Gospel According To The Men In Black.

JJ puts much of their form down to when guitarist/singer Baz Warne joined, giving a new voice to classic hits such as Peaches, 5 Minutes, Duchess and Golden Brown.

“There was a renewed confidence and energy in the band. Also, I regained my confidence in singing again. Also, we are now spending more time writing and as a four-piece band it all works better.”

Formed in 1974 and generally regarded as a punk band - although they’ve always denied that in spite of the era they were central to - The Stranglers were a bit older, performed more intelligent songs and possessed greater musical ability than their contemporaries. This enabled them to adapt and survive. Three members have been part of the set-up since 1975 when keyboard played Dave Greenfield joined JJ and elder statesman Jet Black on drums. Baz joined in 2000 and Giants is their 17th album.

“I think it’s the best album we’ve ever done. It’s definitely our most eclectic ever,” JJ says, pointing toward an instrumental and a tango they’ve included. Mercury Rising and Time Was Once On My Side are likely to be singles, but Giants will not dominate tomorrow’s show.

“I can tell you it’s the most radical set change we’ve done in 25 years - quite a few songs we haven’t done before.”

The Popes and Mike Marlin support.

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