28 January 2016

Skunk Anansie - Anarchytecture

I will start my review of this album with a confession - I have not listened to the last few Skunk Anansie albums which have been released since they came back together in 2009 all the way through.  I have copies of both 'Wanderlust' and 'Black Traffic' and the track I have heard are good, but for lack of time, real life getting in the way and other things I have not been able to give them both the time that they deserve.  Which is a shame as Skunk Anansie are a band I got into when I first heard them in 1995 on the short lived Channel 4 TV show 'The White Room' (I think the song I remember was "Selling Jesus"), and I loved their first three albums.  The closest I have got to seeing them live is seeing lead singer Skin perform twice in Newcastle and both times were brilliant, but in the last few years with the blog taking up a lot of my time I have not had the opportunity to review them (which I was hoping to do with their last two releases - might ask the rest of the team to do a retrospective catch up).  Anyway, I digress - this is their sixth studio album and their third reforming, it is one that I have been anticipating a lot as I follow what they are up to on Facebook and the photos from the recording sessions have looked fun to be honest.  It will also be interesting to see how the band have changed over the years, I am not anticipating the same act as I heard on 'Stoosh' as they were always evolving even back in the day, so let us see how they have changed since I last encountered them?

Starting the record is "Love Someone Else" which deals with relationships and their complicated endings and how they can become destructive; it is a heavy electronic influenced album that will be at home in the club as music as it will be at the live shows which will be coming over the next year.  It builds over a clear and beautiful riff, a bass line that will make you want to groove and a set of drum beats that mix in perfectly with the electronic sheen that has been applied to their music.  Now as a man of the older generation I am supposed to be repulsed by change and demand the band go back to their original sound, well I am bucking that trend as this is an awesome song that is as good as any song they have done in the past and showcases all the members of the band perfectly without sacrificing anything.  "Victim" starts off with a slow and it is a song about being in a relationship where betrayal and heartbreak have entered the narrative; the words are set against a bass heavy song where the guitar is only used to add to the drama and does not come in unless to is truly necessary with a restrained and powerful set of lyrics.  This is one of the most damning set of lyrics from Skunk Anansie since they released "Brazen (Weep)"; it is a song that might not grab you straight away, but once it has snared you then there is no escape.  "Beauty Is Your Curse" is the first song on the album where the rock is stronger than the new electronic sound which has been added to their arsenal.  It still has electronic sections about it, but the riff is louder, the drums seem heavier and the band sound louder once again.  It is a good song, it is also one that still sounds relevant to their sound and it is not out of place which is a great thing to hear, as it could have easily been a throwback to a previous sound that was not right for the band.  We all loved "Selling Jesus" yet I would not want them to try and re-hash that song and with this tune, they have shown that they still are a rock band at heart and can still create new rock songs that do not sound out of place with their never sounds as well. 

"Death to the Lovers" is a slow and mournful song, even from the title you know you are not gonna get a cheery song from the band on this one.  It is all about the end of a relationship and how it is dealt with from one side of the fallout, the realisation that it is not gonna be the same, the reminders of previous events when love was stronger and it is a fragile number that could have been deemed too sentimental.  Skunk Anansie have always been queen-pins when it comes to writing these type of songs - see "Weak", "Hedonism (Just Because It Feels Good)" & "Secretly" for proof of this - and this song is as good, if not better than some of them if I am honest.  Skin has not sounded as fragile to these ears and it is a beautiful song that plucks on the heart strings.  Afterwards we go to the other end of the sexual tension spectrum, with a hint of disco added to the song "In The Back Room".  The music is something that you can seriously groove to, the hook line bass from Cass is spot on, the disco drummer from Mark Richardson is restrained and powerful, the guitar licks from Ace are brilliant and Skin sounds like she could sing sailors to their deaths whilst they were smiling all the way down.  It is a style of song that I would normally not normally listen to, but they perform it so well that I am hooked on it; this is a great piece of music that will work in all venues.  The sixth song is called "Bullets" and this is a genius moment for me on this album; it has a rumbling bass line that holds the whole song together, a set of vocals that can smash through walls and a riff that can strip metal from the earth and form it into music.  It might not be the most complicated song in the world, but this is how I prefer Skunk Anansie; it is straight forward, simple and very effective, it might be my favourite song of the album.  "That Sinking Feeling" is a sub-three minute number that has a bit of punk in the mix on this number, a song about emotions that are leading to darker places and the feeling that things have gone tits up, it showcases the rock side of the band again and it merges well with the electronic sound that has been the major part of the first album.  They might be introducing new tones to their sound, but they are still a rock band at heart.  It is a fun song, a filler if we are honest but who said fillers could not be just as important and fun - it is a brilliant little tune.

"Without You" is the eighth song on the album, is an aggressive and beautifully written love song about realising someone is the one that you wanted all along; it is a song that reminds me of a few indie rock hits from other bands from the past years (“Cause I Want You” by Placebo comes to mind due to the drum beat, Doves “There Goes The Fear” is reflected in the guitar tone), but this is probably due to many years listening to far too much music then is healthy for one human being to digest in one lifetime.  The song itself is a good number, not spectacular compared to other song from the album but still better than a hell of a lot of music out there at the moment.  “Suckers!” is just over a minute long and when I saw the track length I thought it would be a short and sharp punk rocking number (sort of like “Painkillers” which was the B-side to “Secretly”) – it is actually a slow, bass heavy, riff dropping instrumental that loops around for a brief time and does not outstay its welcome till it gives way for the next song – “We Are the Flames”.  The penultimate song of the album is a slow burner, it starts off with a military-esque drum roll that features throughout the song, it has a stop/start nature as the guitar & bass follow suit with it during the verses and then it all explodes into life during the chorus to return to the regimented verses.  It is a track that takes some getting used to in your head, but once it clicks you will be hooked on this number.  The band sound spectacular on this song and it is slowly creeping up my estimation in terms of this album.  Ending the album is “I’ll Let You Down” which ends the album on a reflective and regretful note, the song is about telling the person who is interested in you that you are not really the dream that they are looking for and that whilst you would want to be with them, you are not the right person for them as you will let them down over and over again.  It is a gentle moment and will probably be a new sing-along moment for their live shows, but it does not reach the earlier peaks of the album for me.  It is decent and comes from a similar vein of song to “Death to the Lovers”, but it does not have that special spark for me and it is not the best song that the band have ever created – still better than most of the UK charts.

I was not sure how I would feel about this album, you do have a little fear when you come back to a band that have reformed after time apart – no matter how good their previous material, it is what they are creating in the here and now that you are focused on.  I am glad to report that this album is just as good as their earlier material.  The band sound focused, tight and the addition of a new electronic sound to some of the songs is a work of genius.  There are a few numbers which are filler, but overall there is more positives of this album than negatives, it is an album that will surprise people, it will delight fans old & new with a sense of style, passion and ambition; it is really good to have them back.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Bullets

You can purchase Anarchytecture from Amazon here

You can visit the Skunk Anansie website here (which has a webstore where you can directly from the band)

You can follow the activities of Skunk Anansie on Facebook here

You can stream Anarchytecture on Deezer here

You can stream Anarchytecture on Spotify here

You can stream Anarchytecture on Tidal here

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