Skunk Anansie - Paranoid and Sunburnt
Sony Music
Alt. Metal
11 songs (44:06)
Release year: 1995
Official Website, Sony Music
Reviewed by Charles
Archive review
Listening to My Ugly Boy, a recently-reformed Skunk Anansie’s comeback single (released in September), you could be forgiven for hearing a generally predictable alternative rock band, of little interest to a metal fan long-exposed to far less radio-friendly territory. Whilst it would be foolish to claim that sing-along radio anthems haven’t always been an element of the band’s sound (see Weak on the album in question), it wouldn’t even bring you close to the character and the impact of this, their debut album. This is a fierce and unique alternative metal album that screeches along powered predominantly by righteous anger.

Because of their lead singer, Skin, they earned a reputation as a bit of a novelty- “that black lesbian band”- not a common sight on the British indie music scene of the 1990s, then dominated by Britpop. Whilst this completely ignores their music, on one level it is apt. Skin is the focal point of Skunk Anansie on record as well as on stage; her vocals seem capable of anything, from sweet crooning to apoplectic spitting, aggressively expelling opinions (particularly on race) from her own throat and jamming them hard into your ears and brain. (Lest there be any doubt that this is a band with points to make, the opening track on the album that follows this is called Yes, it’s Fucking Political). I doubt the two bands have ever even heard of each other, but listening to Paranoid and Sunburnt now, it reminds me of Madder Mortem; both bands rely on the female voice to form a piercing iron spearhead which not only forms the jabbing point of the music itself but which leads where it follows. The diversity of the vocals is the diversity of the music.

I’d say just over half of the tunes here are what could be loosely-termed metal songs, although metal heavily infected with funk and alternative rock (reference points that enter my head at various points range from Soundgarden to Rage Against the Machine). Selling Jesus and I Can Dream, for example, are fast, energetic, and immensely catchy slabs of straightforward rock meat. Intellectualise My Blackness and Little Baby Swastikka, though, are a bit more off-kilter, the latter based around a jabbering, bouncing bass riff and incandescent vocal snapping, and the former an infectious funk-metal riff given character by the almost gospel-like feel of some of the backing singing. Then the remainder, in the latter half of the album particularly, wander further from the trail. 100 Ways to be a Good Girl, for example, is a genuinely eerie ballad with its delicate instrumentation and breathy vocals. And finally there are moments of compelling madness, like the rapid mood and time changes that give It takes blood and guts to be this cool but I’m still just a cliché such an unpredictable character.

On later albums Skunk Anansie seemed to move in different directions at once. Post-Orgasmic Chill, their final record before the first break-up, is truly perplexing; alternating track to track between warp-speed, bilious skronk metal and sweet AOR. This, though, is probably the best, an uncompromising and vicious collision between pop sensibility, experimental instincts and heavy riffs.

Killing Songs :
Intellectualise My Blackness, And Here I Stand, I Can Dream
Charles quoted 85 / 100
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