Thursday, 25 July 2013

Skunk Anansie

Remember when Alanis Morrisette released "You Outta Know" and how frightening that brash and defiant vocal was? How she made men cringe with fear at the thought of ever doing the wrong thing by her and how she empowered women?

That's nothing.

Enter Skunk Anansie, stage left.

One of the more interesting and in-your-face female-fronted bands I can think of has to be Skunk Anansie. The British band were formed in 1993 and soon after their first gig, they were signed to a record deal.

Lead singer Skin has an unusual voice, and it was quite deceptive at first for a lot of people when we first heard it. She could sound sensual and seductive, and she could let rip with a full throat-ed roar that was as alluring at first. Having only heard her on Triple J (commercial radio wouldn't touch them in 1995, and still won't), there was no visual, so my mates and I thought she was blonde and sassy, like Fiona Horne from Def FX. With that in mind, a good friend of mine got the shock of his life when, after a night on the grog, he settled down to watch RAGE on the ABC and the video for "I Can Dream" came on. The first image was of Skin - bald, aggressive, staunchly proto-feminist and liable to do awful things to you if you got on her bad side.

Skin didn't want to be a sex symbol. She wanted to be a symbol for the empowerment of women in the face of patriarchal dominance. She wanted to (and did, in my opinion) break stereotypes.  She carried herself and her message in such a way as she left you in no uncertain terms with the exact idea of what she was all about. On record, she did so with passion, fire and sheer determination. It leaps out of the speakers at you, such is the bracing nature of her music.

The band, while being all male, pack the sonic wallop you would expect behind such a strong front-woman. Subtle synths but with full-throttle guitars and charging rhythms. None better is that demonstrated than on the track "The Skank Heads".

Skunk Anansie's first record "Paranoid and Sunburnt" in 1995 tackled the issues of racism, neo-Nazism, patriarchy, and sexuality as a commodity. That in itself would make for a challenging listen, and it can be at times. The themes were no less prevalent in their subsequent LP "Stoosh!" in 1996, but they were softened slightly on that release.

The band upped the ante again on "Post Orgasmic Chill" in 1999 - with a bigger sound, more ambitious song structures and some of Skin's most abrasive vocals yet - before calling it quits around 2001. Skin made a solo album "Fleshwounds" which was more of a rave/dance style release, before the band reunited in 2009 for a few more records. The reunion records haven't been as intense but have carried a lot more melody in place of the aggression.

Below is a selection of 30 tracks from their five albums to date, sorted in Chronological order.

Welcome to the jungleland that is the work of Skunk Anansie.


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