20 years ago, Skunk Anansie arrived on the British rock scene like a bucket of ice-cold water to the face with debut ‘Paranoid and Sunburnt’. In a musical era somewhat defined by angst, it was an impressive feat that Skunk’s attack on god, racists and love sounded so raw and vital. Two more solid albums fusing ballads, D&B and garage rock were released before the quartet parted company on good terms. A true home-grown ‘90s success story.
Reforming in 2009 without the usual pomp and fanfare expected, fans were more than happy to have their faces melted once more…and arguably still are. ‘Anarchytecture’ is the group’s third effort since returning to the scene, and while it sounds more sincere than 2012’s ‘Black Traffic’, it still lacks real bite. It’s unfair to expect groups to remain the angry 20-somethings they were in their heyday, but there’s no excuse for timid songwriting, especially when one’s aware of what a powerful punch Skunk can land.
Skin remains one of the greatest vocalists on the circuit, and ‘Death To The Lovers’ stands proudly alongside previous heart tuggers such as ‘Squander’ and ‘Hedonism’. Scrappy ‘That Sinking Feeling’ is loveable in its simplicity, all power-chords, sarcastic delivery and snarl while ‘Without You’ confidently delivers a brand of punchy melancholic that only these four can. ‘In The Back Room’ room sounds too close to Gossip for comfort while maddeningly the best grin-inducing riff on the album is wasted on ‘Suckers!’
Unashamedly ‘90s-sounding as it is, (but hell, good rock has no expiry date) ‘Suckers!’ could have proved the album highlight but instead is whittled down to a minute and a half instrumental. Bizarre.
Equally odd is the use of ‘Love Someone Else’ as the album’s lead single. It’s easily one of the dullest songs the group has ever produced; an electro-tinged pop number that never really goes anywhere but the pre-frontal lobe temporarily. The remaining tracks, though giving more gloss and scale than their ‘90s output, falls firmly under the ‘seen before’ category. Love is lost, enemies are scorched and the old swagger is briefly spotted. It must be said that Skunk Anansie unfairly get overlooked when looking back at an age ruled by Britpop and male dominated bravado. They jammed with Björk, performed with Pavarotti and brought a much-needed sense of diversity to an industry mostly filled with white lads with guitars.
‘Anarchytecture’ shows the most of that old promise since the band’s reformation, but in doing so proves frustrating. A rejig and a little more fire could have elevated this collection to something that’ll get the heart racing.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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