Spinefarm – January 15th
In their Nineties heyday, Skunk Anansie stood alone from their Britpop contemporaries, seemingly a little out of their time, bearing the stamp of alternative rock and given intrigue by the wiry, confrontational dynamism of full-throated frontwoman Skin. Following eight years of noughties nonexistence, the band got back together in 2009 and on Anarchytecture, their second album since that reformation, it’s as if the intervening years never happened.
Skin’s backers form an impressively potent rock unit but she remains the star. On opener ‘Love Someone Else’, Skin embellishes an electro-rock pulse by pattering her way through a litany of seedy relationships before unleashing the lungs to stirring effect on the robust chorus. ‘Victim’ is another showcase for her operatic range, a high-flown counter to the band’s menacing rumble, while on ‘Beauty Is Your Curse’, the singer’s theatricality adds a metallic sheen to a rush of bouncy new wave, its ascending power chords straining with energy. It’s good to hear one of bassist Cass’s rootsy lines steering ‘In The Back Room’, too – his expressive playing was the other key facet of Skunk Anansie’s individuality.
Outside these highlights, though, much smacks of the mainstream rock arena. And while contriving a current sound should never be high on any artist’s priorities, there’s scant evidence on Anarchytecture, glossy production aside, that we’ve changed millennium. That producer, Tom Dalgety, has worked with Royal Blood, which gives some clue to the type of distorted retro-modern riff that introduces ‘Bullets’, as well as the curiously short ‘Suckers!’, a great idea left hanging. More problematic are Vaseline-smeared ballads ‘I’ll Let You Down’ and ‘Death To The Lovers’ – both more Annie Lennox than Anarchy. Skin has apparently secured a role as one of the judges on X-Factor Italy, perhaps she’s just trying to get into her contestants’ mind-set.
Twenty years after their heyday and Skunk Anansie are still standing apart, seemingly a little out of their time. Yet they hit on a formula to become one of the UK’s biggest rock draws back then, and Anarchytecture is a play-it-safe pitch for more of the same.
Live: The Forum – February 5th (Sold Out)