I’ve just returned from a viewing at FACT of Hugh Cornwell’s Blueprint film, which consists of a live performance of the former Strangler’s new album Hooverdam interspersed with Hugh’s take on the album, in conversation with Robert Elms.
Blueprint is filmed at Toe Rag studios – made famous when The White Stripes recorded Elephant there – where Hugh recorded Hooverdam, and reveals a pared down set with trademark JJ Burnel-esque ‘trebly bass’ and distinctly raw live sound.
Hooverdam, which can be downloaded for free here, reveals that a few of the rough edges have been knocked off and Hugh’s tones have gone through a few filters, but it’s essentially the same live run-through that we see in the film, and all the better for it.
It’s a fairly mixed bag, with its fair share of genuine duffers, but a few of the more energetic tracks recall Hugh of old, complete with sardonic barbs and a typically skewed view on life.
In the Q&A that followed the screening of Blueprint, Hugh seems much more lively, wry and frankly interesting than the flatulent documentary with the ghastly Elms would suggest.
He’s also honest enough to suggest that giving away an album as a free download and referencing his Stranglers heritage is a good way to pique the interest of listeners who might not otherwise bother.
As a fan of The Stranglers it was particularly interesting to hear an honest assessment of the man and his work from the horse’s mouth, even if I didn’t have anything to ask myself. I do, however, always have a back-up question in case of moments where no others are forthcoming from the audience.
So towards the end of the session I asked if Hugh is still inspired to write about unlikely subjects he is drawn to. This is, after all, a man who wore only black clothes for nearly five years, became convinced that ginger was a cure for all ailments and wrote an entire album about aliens dressed as American CIA agents attempting to uncover the Ark of the Covenant. Or something.
Imagine my bemusement then, when Hugh irritably replied that he’d answered that in conversation with Elms, and suggested that I must have dozed off at that point. Sensing that an audience full of Stranglers fans would not side with me in a public battle of wits, I remained silent.
It was nice to see that the old bugger hadn’t lost all of his spite. Indeed, Blueprint’s pompous musings would’ve been enlivened greatly if Cornwell had suddenly snapped and assaulted Elms with a banana. As it is I suggest you fast forward during those bits.