Friday, February 03, 2012

FDF Volume 3 Issue 252 - Skunk Anansie Paranoid and Sunburnt

Album - Paranoid & Sunburnt
Artist – Skunk Anansie
Key Players – Cass (Richard Keith Lewis) – bass. Ace (Martin Ivor Kent) – guitars. Robbie France – drums. Skin (Deborah Dyer) – vocals
Produced By – Sylvia Massey and Skunk Anansie

Release Date – September 21, 1995

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I am actually surprised that I haven't done one of this bands records yet. I am/was a big fan of them both in studio and Live. I wish they'd come to the US more.

Overview – The name comes from a combination of words. A West African folk tale speaks of “Anansi – the spider man and the band added “Skunk” to make the name “nastier”. Formed in 1994 in London the four piece would dominate the UK charts. They'd have a total of 141 weeks of albums or singles on the charts. The band would find themselves on the soundtrack to the film “Strange Days” and an early fan of the band was radio personality Howard Stern who announced the band would “be huge”. They'd release a few more records in the US, but success here would elude them. (none of their albums would crack the US charts, but the first three were all top 20 releases). The band would disband in 2001, but reformed in 2009. They released their fifth studio album “Wonderlustre” in September of 2010.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The album opens with the rocking “Selling Jesus”. The instruments slowly build before crashing in. Once Skin starts to sing it is with a fierce growl that at the same time seems to soar above the chaos. Skin has one of my favorite female voices in rock of all time. She just pulls it from her toes to her throat. Cass throws some cool bass slides and fires off France. One thing the band is not afraid of is pushing the boundaries with the lyrics or song titles. After the second verse there is a short bridge with Skin having overdubs on her vocals and they bring it back seemingly even more urgent. Skin then really pushes the range at the close. An absolutely kick ass album intro. The guitars are abuzz as “Intellectualize my Blackness” starts off. Cass finds a funk bass groove and France keeps things in check. We are little slower on this from the opener but the bass is very high in the mix allowing the vocals to really be on the upfront. I am not sure what this song is about, but Skin is pretty passionate about it and you really start to think. Ace doesn't have any flashy guitar runs, instead he holds on to some big riffs to play off the others. As the song progresses Skin seems to really push herself even further in range and urgency. “I Can Dream” finds Skin seemingly hushed at the start with the guitar bass and drums keeping things in check. After a few lines Ace gets things rolling and as the chorus approaches it grows until the chorus just reaches out and shakes you. As a casual bass player myself its fun to hear Cass toss some in some big booming fills as the band clicks along. The song is a really a strong example of how powerful a voice Skin has. File under a song that could be dissected in a few dozen ways “Little Baby Swastikka” is next. Yeah, you read that right. On this track Skin is almost whispering the verses as Ace strums his guitar and France finds time on the hi-hat. As the chorus strikes Cass pops off on his bass and he does this a lot. The song is angry, rocking and another strong example of what the band is capable of. Hard song to admit you like due to content, but its a ripper. France doesn't want things to slow down so he has a big thunderous drum intro on “All In The Name of Pity” and again Cass gets to stand back and drop the bass grooves. Ace seems to sit back to just give the riffs heading to the chorus with Skin singing along to just the bass and drums. “Charity” is about as slow/mellow as the band gets. Even with that being said, everyone fires off at the start, but as Skin sings everyone cools down. This is a showcase for Skin to show her range. She ranges from 'vein in the head' screams to hushed lullaby style. The chorus finds everyone getting a little frantic so it is by no stretch a ballad, but this is about as calm as we've heard the band to this point. Cass has a few bass chords he plays and “It Takes Blood and Guts to Be This Cool But I'm Still Just a Cliche” kicks off. Ace seems to be a little frantic and Cass continues to lay the bass pops and thumps. The band tries to slow things down leading to the chorus, showing a little more musical diversity vs just these front to back rockers. Ace also seems to have found more effect pedals and slides across the strings like a machine gun while France goes from cymbals to hi-hat rolls. “Weak” is a “clean” track. It just seems to find the band in a comfort zone and comfortable with their positions in the track. Not sure this makes sense, but this is sort of just a straight ahead and clean track. You hear everyone, Skin sounds great but it doesn't have that big riff, or fill, or huge hook. Bigger is better though and when the band gets “And Here I Stand” going you'll feel it in your bones. Cass, Ace and France seem to chug things along and they seem to almost “jam” longer than on any other tracks before Skin comes in. When Skin starts the lyrics they settle back a little but come the chorus we have, what seems like only the second time, backing vocals. The track is dirty and grinds to a gradual swell, finally really taking off and the band getting to rumble and Skin howls over everyone, she is about as angry as you'll hear, but in that good rocking sort of way. Ace plays a few delayed guitar notes and Skin comes in to get
“100 Ways to Be A Good Girl” started. She sings just about a full verse before Cass comes with a few bass notes. The drums are kept to light taps of the cymbals and snare strikes. The song keeps the same feel through the second verse and choruses. “Rise Up” closes out the record and has a similar feel. A decent closer, but not as rocking as we'd hope.

Where are they now? - Skin, Ace and Cass as noted have reformed and perform. Drummer Mark Richardson joined the band soon after the debut. Original drummer Robbie France passed away on January 14, 2012 at age 52. Skin worked as a solo artist for a bit after the band disbanded. Ace released a record and worked worked with others, as did Cass. Mark will write and record and work with Ace during down times.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – The first time I saw the band live was at the Paradise with the Australian band Ammonia. Ammonia was actually supposed to be the headliner, but the rumor was the band couldn't see themselves going on after Skunk Anansie so they traded slots. The show was great, but so horribly undersold, I swear there was less than 100 people there. Made for a fun show and Skin was just all over the stage. (We took a look at "Mint 400" from Ammonia here. In May of 1997 they were back opening for the Rollins Band at Avalon. A 30 minute set set the room on fire. We looked at the Rollins Band "Weight" album here. On August 26, 1999 was the last time I saw the band live (and perhaps one of the last times they were in the states?) opening for Sevendust at Lupos. Again, the band did their best with an early and short set. I talked to the bass player after and he said they were thinking of moving to the States for some time to try to get a bigger presence. I guess that meeting didn't go well. One other time I saw them was with Jawbreaker as part of a Newbury Comics birthday concert. I don't have the date, but it was at Venus DeMilo in Boston.

FDF Overall TakeI am surprised this record doesn't have a parental advisory sticker. Its pretty heavy at times lyrically and musically. Skin just has this awesome voice and its different to hear a female fronted “hard rock” band. Might not be for everyone, but worthy of a spin for you to decide if they are for you.


Official page is here.
The page for Skin is right here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The album appears to be out of print, but you can still find it


At 1:40 PM, Anonymous JR said...

I can't believe you left out the fact that Skin rubbed your head at the Venus DeMilo show.


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