Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present

Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.

As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.

Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.

In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.

Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at

Thursday 10 November 2022

'Cognitive Dissidents' by The Newtown Neurotics


I have often repeated on this site that whilst The Stranglers became the mainstay of my musical listening, my social life and all that that entails, I have always made time for a whole array of bands, most but not all, with a leaning towards punk. Political bands have always been a part of that. I have never subscribed to the view that music and politics don’t mix. Quite the contrary, music is the perfect vehicle for conveying political opinions and ideas… especially to those newly eligible to vote or those for whom this right is almost upon them. Politics is part of our lives, whether we like it or not, it defines how we are able to live.

In the early to mid 80’s, The Stranglers may have enjoyed the most hours on the turntable in my bedroom, but bands like Crass, Conflict and The Newtown Neurotics were not so far behind. Of the last three, they were all clearly overtly political! Crass and Conflict introduced me to many new ideas, some of which still resonate with me 35 years on, but the ballot box approach always seemed to me to be the way to go in my mind. This was especially the case when not so long after my introduction to The Neurotics’ second album ‘Repercussions’ I would spend my evenings in front of the evening news on TV watching shocking scenes that were being played out in the North of England and the Midlands as miners fought with police in our colliery towns during the Miners Strike of ’84-’85.

Gigs in Brighton followed before I was lucky enough to see the band’s ‘final’ performances at the Electric Ballroom and the Fulham Greyhound in 1988.

All went quiet until 2005 when an interest in an old independent punk label, Stortbeat (a label that put out material by bands hailing from the Harlow and Bishops Stortford area). Incidentally, Bishops Stortford has been my ‘home town’ for the past 27 years. A rather splendid compilation CD of the label’s output also encouraged many of the musicians that were involved in the label to reconnect as ‘The Stortbeat Collective’. This in turn seemed to reactivate the Newtown Neurotics a couple of years later as they  played some stunning gigs which for me rekindled that initial buzz that I associate with the term ‘Agitate, Educate and Organise’. 

However, no new material has been forthcoming from the band since 1988’s ‘Is Your Bathroom Breeding Bolshevicks?’. Until now.

‘Cognitive Dissidents’ to my ears picks up where ‘Repercussions’ left off (‘Is Your Bathroom Breeding Bolshevicks?’ was a rather more reflective album). The new album takes on familiar themes from the very local (’Take Your Dirty Hands Off Our Town’) to truly global issues (‘Climate Emergency’). The latter track needs no explanation whereas perhaps the former does. The town is Harlow, a first wave new town created in 1948 under the provisions of the New Town Act 1946. The Luftwaffe had started a job of East End slum clearance that the then London authorities capitalized on, demolishing the rest and creating new environments for displaced Londoners beyond the inner city. 

Originally greeted with great enthusiasm (who wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea of an inside loo!) the new town concept in time fell out of favour. I have worked in Harlow for the last 29 years, but it is not for me to opine about the pros and cons of Harlow. I leave that to Steve Drewett, who by his own admission is around the same age as the town that he has spent his life in. In this song, a love song to the town, he traces his love hate relationship with Harlow which culminates in a fierce pride for the place. Quite a contrast to the sentiments of ‘Newtown People’ from 40 years ago. Then again, I guess that any town with a venue as brilliant at The Square will always have something to shout about…. Don’t get me started on the travesty of the Square’s closure!

‘Liar Liar’, an in your face appraisal of the personal qualities of the now twice former Prime Minister is not my favourite track on the album, although I am fully behind the meaning of the song with its appraisal of the immorality and integrity of Boris Johnson. I wonder whether when the band recorded the track, just a few short months ago, they realized that by the time the track was released on the album the song would be out of date to the tune of not one but two Prime Ministers!!

One of the most pointed tracks on the album is ‘Dumb’. It is a bitter ode to this new, technology enabled, breed of keyboard warriors, those who invest so much time propagating madcap conspiracy theories about how we are all being controlled from on high. Just for the record I am fully vaccinated and if Bill Gates intended to track my every move via a smart implant he will have figured out by now the revolution is not being plotted nightly in the Castle Inn in Bishops Stortford! Sorry to be a frightful bore Mr Gates!

‘We’re dumb, you’re wrong
Embrace your conspirituality!’

The song reminds me of an earlier track ‘Sects’…

‘I have come to the conclusion
That if you refuse the transfusion
Then you’re certainly insane
To cause so much suffering and pain’

As I write this in November 2022, two days after Gavin Williamson reluctantly resigned in the wake of accusations that he had told a member of his ministerial staff to ‘slit his throat’ I am absolutely despondent as to how fractured we are as a country and a Kingdom.

The Newtown Neurotics may not have all of the answers to all of these big issues but I am more than happy ‘To Stand With Them’ whilst we try to figure a way through the bloody mess.

The Newtown Neurotics play the Lexington on Pentonville Road, London on 22nd November…. I’ll see you there.


  1. not the same as they were doesn't even sound like them

    1. They don’t event look the same!