Review of Skunk Anansie's album Smashes and Trashes
When I received Smashes & Trashes I have to admit that I wasn't sure whether a Skunk Anansie 'Greatest Hits' compilation was entirely warranted, but after research it transpired that they were in fact much more successful than I remembered. Formed in the twilight of grunge, by the time the four- piece split in 2001 their three albums - Stoosh, Sunburnt & Paranoid and Post Orgasmic Chill - had amassed worldwide sales of 5 million.
Of course I hadn't forgotten Skin, Skunk Anansie's iconic frontwoman, or her voice, which depending on how much you'd had to drink the night before sounded either like an operatic wasp or alternatively just a plain ol' foghorn. Going solo after the split, the woman christened Deborah Dyer grew her hair, but found the same levels of gold-plated success harder to come by.
Now 'Re-born' (According to their label - sounds better than reunited though, right?) to kick start the whole thing we're now offered a reprise of their best nineties moments, plus an almost obligatory trio of new tracks designed to make the original fans a little less ripped off.
As a retrospective the exercise works fine: despite their formulaic limitations, it's hard to deny the visceral power of Selling Jesus, Twisted (Everyday Hurts) and I Can Dream. Even their other default setting - ponderous cod metal-balladry - also had its moments, best underlined here in the form of Charity and Hedonism. Flailing guitars and combat wear aside, that it was all about Skin's jet-engine pipes is undeniable. But the other dimension to these songs was an awkward lyrical rawness, many of them fixated, embittered thorns from shattered relationships spat out from an autobiographical context.
If the older material feels like it's never been away, the new stuff should be a better guide to how the last eight years of musical progression has altered the band's perceptions. Answer? Not an inch. Whilst Squander is comparatively soppy, Tear The Place Up and Because of You could both have been Stoosh out-takes, as subtle as an arterial spray. And maybe because she thinks we've really missed it, Skin's vocal histrionics on them are so ear-blowingly over the top they conjure up recollections of when Seattle was the centre of the universe and volume was often a substitute for quality. All in all and their under-the-radar former hugeness notwithstanding, Skunk Anansie's absence hasn't exactly made the heart grow fonder. Progression is needed - and fast - to convincingly prove that this all about something other than topping up the green.