An album of intellect and development, its makers as commanding as they ever were.
Al Fox 2010-09-06
When Skunk Anansie released Smashes & Trashes, their greatest hits compilation, in 2009 after a decade’s absence, it was a reminder that they had some unfinished business. This was a band that had the music press quivering with a mixture of confusion and excitement, who teetered on globe-conquering greatness, and who wrapped things up quietly with no acrimonious divorce.
Fourth studio album Wonderlustre sees the band return from, between them, solo albums, session work, music tuition and a seven-year stint in Feeder. But rather than instantly recommencing from 1999, it’s an engaging illustration of growth. It's a less spiked affair than previous long-players, but their distinctive rock dynamism is still present, and in generous abundance, frenetic drumwork and strapping licks playing host to mesmerising yet forceful vocals.
Skin's solo work, while not exactly evolving her into an unmitigated pop princess, shone a light on a more refined, lush side put to further use on Wonderlustre, married beautifully with the edge and rawness of Skunk Anansie as a unit. It’s a skilful balance, best demonstrated by Over the Love’s descant riffs allowing Skin’s venomous words to do all the damage; or Feeling the Itch, sounding like a lost non-conjugal collaboration between Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale.
There’s no re-enactment of the haunting frailty of Hedonism or Secretly, though My Love Will Fall comes fairly close. It’s not that it falls short, necessarily – rather, Wonderlustre on the whole carries a more assured feel to it. One of Skunk Anansie’s key quirks was the ability to jump from aggressive, oestrogen-fuelled metal to poignant, vulnerable ballads. Wonderlustre, however, sees neither extremity covered, yet doesn’t suffer for it. There’s a confidence and a maturity – both sonically and lyrically – that actually makes it their most cohesive album to date.
Perhaps it isn't groundbreaking, but then this is ground that they themselves broke. The only competition Skunk Anansie have is their earlier incarnation, which they’ve wisely left alone. Instead, they’ve crafted an album which displays intellect and development, whilst still celebrating their individuality and suggesting they’re as commanding as they ever were.
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