Released: January 15, 2016
Roughly 20 years ago Skunk Anansie released their first single “Selling Jesus” and managed to slap awake the British rock scene, which had for a while been a polite, radio-friendly tea time chit-chat between Blur and Oasis, with the likes of Radiohead, Suede and Pulp standing by the table, coughing awkwardly in a futile attempt to be noticed. Skunk Anansie didn’t wait for a turn to speak, but proceeded to kick the table over, and punch out one of the Gallagher brothers in a feminist rage. Skin, the singer of Skunk Anansie, describes their music as ‘clit-rock’, which in layman’s terms mixes together the angry proto-nu-metal sound of Helmet and the more radio-friendly guitar ballads of Alanis Morissette; on average they could be roughly described as the British equivalent of Garbage. But unfortunately, in addition to their current, electro-influenced alternative sound, Skunk also shares the exact same pitfall with Garbage: after reuniting in the turn of the decade neither of the bands really knew how to adapt to the new tens.
Listening to Skunk Anansie’s sixth studio album Anarchytecture is like watching a slow motion replay of Garbage’s faceplant with their 2012 album Not Your Kind of People: the band sleeks their sound to fit the more electronic soundscape of the 2010s, trims off some of the branches and in the process whets off all the jagged edges that once made them interesting. For an album called “Anarchytecture” the music is disappointingly by the book. Of course it is a bit unfair to expect any group to retain their flame of youth as the band members become middle-aged, but usually the loss of vim and vigor comes with the benefit of experience and skill. Unfortunately on Anarchytecture the ‘experience’ seems to mean ‘routined’, as the whole band appears to be replaced with lookalike androids hollowly mimicking the band’s known mannerisms with no discernible feeling involved. This is except for the vocals: Skin is still an incredibly soulful singer, and her vibrant voice is the sole reason that prevents tracks like “Beauty is Your Curse” from becoming complete background noise. The minimalistic electronic ballad “Death to the Lovers” is basically a showcase for her vocal work and thus the only track that is able to stand on its own when compared to Skunk’s old hits like “Secretly” or “Weak”. “Suckers!” starts promisingly with a raunchy and memorable riff, but is then cut off after a mere minute and a half, left as a weird, out-of-place instrumental interlude leading to the underwhelming “We Are the Flames”. The one leap of faith the band performs pays off: the fast-paced “That Sinking Feeling” takes a slight departure from the band’s usual style with its power chords and Sleater-Kinney-esque choruses, making the song one of the few high points on the album.
Out of all the dozens of bands that have reformed since the turn of the decade Skunk Anansie continues to feel like one of the more cynical cash grabs. Apart from few choice cuts Anarchytecture offers little for the old fans of the band, and is not very likely to make them any new ones.