Annie's latest is a political and emotional tour de force...
Chris Jones 2007
Annie Lennox’s fourth solo album in fifteen years highlights not necessarily a control freaks’ dedication to perfection of her craft but rather a devotion to ordering her life around things that matter to her. She’s just been busy with family, friends and the wider injustices of human existence; you know…the small stuff. It’s this aspect of her life that’s reflected in Songs Of Mass Destruction.
Less painfully autobiographical as her last release, Bare, on Songs… Lennox displays, beyond any reasonable doubt, why she became a towering crossover icon for two decades. It’s the voice. Filled with the gravitas and emotion that we’ve come to expect, Annie’s pipes seem not to have aged one jot.
But luckily Lennox has packed the tunes as well. Completely self-written, her way with a melody and the inclusion of amusingly idiosyncratic vocal tics as on the opening to “Womankind” - showing that it wasn’t just weird-beard Dave Stewart who had all the groundbreaking ideas in the Eurythmics – lift the often slightly too generic I’m-at-the-end-of-my-tether lyrics out of any mediocrity. Opener "Dark Road" is as fine a soul-searching ballad as she’s ever performed, though she seems more at ease with this gloomier stuff than the up-tempo rockers such as "Ghost In The Machine" which, while showcasing her white R’n’B credentials, remind one of the blander late-period work of her previous band (think of “I Need A Man”).
While her political commitment is to be admired, as is her continued seriousness in maintaining her role as empowered woman in a male-dominated industry (cf: “Womankind”), too often the songs that seem like they should be accompanying some fund-raising video of human injustice or natural disaster. The album’s title probably doesn’t help either. You can overdose on worthiness sometimes. Having said this, "Sing" – dedicated to the cause of awareness of the problem of mother and cvhild HIV infection – easily overcomes its weighty agenda to take life as a great song in its own right.
Truth be told we had little right to expect Lennox to come up with the goods like this when she’s obviously gone beyond the role of mere pop star. Songs Of Mass Destruction does deliver on an artistic and political level. This, in itself, is cause for celebration…