Skunk Anansie formed in London in 1994. They are guitarist Ace, bassist Cass, drummer Mark Richardson and singer Skin. In ’96 I saw them open for Bon Jovi in Glasgow and remember being blown away by the absolute powerhouse that is Skin. By that point they were riding high and everyone knew them for Weak, the track that is probably still the one they’re best known for. I’m often guilty of not paying much attention to female voices in rock, other than a select few I’ve never been very interested. Lzzy Hale is the one that amazes me these days but Skin is someone I’ve always been eager to listen to. She can convey so much emotion with her voice, from the anger of Weak to the heartbreak of Hedonism. On January 15th Skunk Anansie will release their sixth studio album, Anarchytecture, on Spinefarm Records, followed by a European tour in February and March. The album was produced by Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Killing Joke) at RAK Studios in London.
There’s a lot of heartbreak in this album, a glance at the track listing below will tell you that. The lyrics take it even deeper though, with Skin pouring every ounce of herself into the emotion the band is trying to convey. At times she sounds almost completely broken, as if the effort of telling these stories is almost too much. The album opens with Love Someone Else, which begins almost like a dance track, which made me worry for a second, but once the track gets going it builds and builds into a crescendo of a chorus that is quite euphoric. From that point on it’s an album full of genius. I love when a band inspires excitement in me. Skunk Anansie have been anything but prolific. Having formed in ’94, split in ’01 and reformed in ’09, even with that eight year hiatus they’ve still spent thirteen years together but Anarchytecture is only their sixth studio album. What this means is that not only do they give themselves time to be inspired, to create and to be happy with the final product, they also make us wait, which makes the release of a new album a real event. Anarchytecture is worth the wait. A highlight for me is Death to the Lovers, a gorgeous ballad in which Skin’s vocal is paired with a beautiful, heart-rending lyric. “With my heart in your hands I will suffer, suffer to the bitter end.” You’d need a heart of stone not to be touched by it. Bullets is another highlight, a track that will be amazing when the band play live next year. It has a great chorus for audience participation and builds to a scream that will have crowds across Europe going crazy.
The focus with Skunk Anansie is on Skin most of the time, she’s the face and voice of the band but it would be crazy to ignore the contribution of the other band members. Without them Skin would not have the opportunity to shine that their music gives her and on Anarchytecture they are on top form. Every track is unique and has that innate understanding that you see with artists who know how to craft a piece of music so that even if the vocal was removed the music would still be enough to convey their meaning. Suckers! highlights this perfectly, crashing drums and pounding guitar, with Cass’s bass grooving away, it’s one minute twenty seconds of instrumental perfection. Skin is completely absent and the men who normally inhabit her shadow come into the light and show themselves off. If you don’t want to get up and jump you’ve no right to be listening.
The album closes with I’ll Let You Down, a real tear-jerker of a ballad. It’s a quiet, introspective close to an album that crosses the full gamut of emotions, each one superbly brought to life by one of the best vocalists of our generation.
- Love Someone Else
- Beauty is your Curse
- Death to the Lovers
- In the Back Room
- That Sinking Feeling
- Without You
- We are the Flames
- I’ll let you Down