The Stranglers with Money Money at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College), Thursday (October 21), 8 pm. $32.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
after almost 30 years, England's Stranglers still have it, "it" being a good logo, a good time and Norfolk Coast, a fresh but not embarrassingly youthful-sounding new album.
Pleasantly humble lead singer and bassist J. J. Burnel tells me, "I hope it encapsulates what people think of the Stranglers on a good day," as we chat over tea in a hotel café like a couple of fancy lads.
Ironically, Burnel may be the reverse of a fancy lad. He and the rest of the band were often forced into hand-to-hand combat, and may have fought more people than Steven Seagal and Popeye combined.
"We did get in a lot of dust-ups," he says, "but we were protecting our asses. People had heard about this band in London with a tough name and were testing us. We had dockers in the north of England coming onstage and trying to beat the shit out of us."
The band chalks up a lot of the enmity they ran into back then to one of life's most important words: context.
"It is contextual, isn't it? You bring something out that everyone thinks is shite, and then 10 to 20 years later they reassess it. For the first time in years, a much younger demographic is coming to see us. I reckon it's partly to do with the fact that many people are listening to us with unprejudiced ears, without the idea of who's supposed to like you.
"They see that we never split up and that occasionally we've come out with half-decent stuff."
He says the chilly 70s and 80s media response to the the Stranglers can be traced back to a key 1976 performance when he and like-minded rockers slugged it out with members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols.
"We were chosen to represent London at the American bicentennial celebration. Representing New York were the Ramones, and representing San Francisco were the Flaming Groovies.
"On the second night of this two-night gig, Paul (Simonon) from the Clash and I had a fight. We ended up on one side of the courtyard with Dee Dee Ramone, Chrissie Hynde, John Lydon and Joel Strummer. It was me and Paul, handbags at 10 yards. It was silly."
The press and the media were on the side of the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and the polarization grew as the Stranglers started selling more records than either band in 77.
But through admiration and denigration, fighting and relaxing and living in and not living in the seaside house that inspired the title and themes of Norfolk Coast, the Stranglers have pressed on. Burnel knows what's kept them going.
"Every now and then, when you have your moments of success, you have sirens calling you. Success and money definitely corrupt. You want to follow the desire for it, but actually it's been the opposite of what we've expected every fucking time.
"The first success is putting out a record. If it's successful, great. If not, back to the drawing board. That's what I think an artist should do."