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Volume 91, Issue 18
Friday, September 26, 1997
Street-wise Stooshy Skunk
By Victoria Barkley
Somewhere in North America, a band is sleeping off the rigors of touring. Until a writer, who is not room service, rouses the hapless few from slumber. No worries, life is still cool. Welcome to the world of Stoosh a place in the mind where life on the streets is like life on the streets, but there is a little something extra. It's cool and polished, de riguer amidst the usual dirt. A sort of urban Pepperland without Blue Meanies.
Skunk Anansie's most recent CD, Stoosh, presents the polish in the rough that the title indicates. "Stoosh is sharp and cool, but it can be streety," explains Ace, Skunk Anansie's guitar-meister and early morning press liaison. "It's like having a cool car, or on a more streety level, wearing combat pants with a Gucci watch."
The distinct Skunk Anansie sound presents the same kind of appeal. They sound tough with subtle sweetness at the same time. Blending political lyrics with either soft pop or hard-core noise demonstrates the group's versatility. "We Love Your Apathy" is biting sarcasm about the now- defunct conservative British parliament. But not everything is political; "Milk is My Sugar" is naughty. Ace explains: "We're an 'in between band'. We could play (with heavy metal groups) and we can play with other people, like Bjork or Sheryl Crow." To date, Skunk Anansie has supported or played festivals with Lenny Kravitz, Therapy, U2 and Bon Jovi. "We didn't open for Bon Jovi, we only played the same festival in the U.K.," Ace rapidly adds. (Insecurity about ambiguous band image duly noted.)
There is no truly comparable band to Skunk Anansie in contemporary music. One could say they are a rock band fronted by a black woman with a soulful voice. After all, they've been compared to Public enemy, Aretha Franklin, Rage Against The Machine and various Brit pop bands. They can be outrageously angry or painfully heartfelt. Ace's "in between band" reference says lot about their style.
The band is comprised of four weirdly different characters. Fortunately, all strange habits and foibles are taken in stride. As a collective they are perfectionists to a fault. In recording Stoosh, they crammed studio sessions between European gigs over the course of five weeks. Producer Garth Richardson (L7, Rage Against The Machine) helped Skunk Anansie put together Stoosh. They don't need guidance; they have their own ideas.
The band's debut album, Paranoid and Sunburnt, was quickly put together and is rather "jammy" sounding. Jammy, rough and experimental is fine, albeit amateurish and Sonic Youth-ish. But Stoosh presents a more polished, practiced band. There are some remnants of the harsh street sound, but melodic tracks and ceaseless touring add a smooth layer to the music. Both entertainment critics and the band itself believe touring has improved the performance and style. The audience is rather diverse there is no cookie-cutter Skunk Anansie fan, but from the band's point of view, all audiences are the same.
"We've been touring since January this year," continues Ace, who feels touring has done crazy things to his head. "This marks our fourth tour of the United States in our three years of touring. It's great that we get a lot of practice but you never know if you have a life to go back home to." Though touring improves performance, it wrecks the personal life. "I was watching Boy George on television last night," recalls Ace mystically. "Fame is great if you never want to deal with anyone intimately."
Skunk Anansie is quite satisfied in coming to Canada after doing gigs in the U.S.. Ace thinks the United States is insane; a rather misunderstood place. "Everybody thinks it's like New York or San Francisco, but it's poverty and angry people with guns. Canada is more European, less violent, more accommodating. . . Yeah, Canada is cool."
Skunk Anansie's ambiguous sound arrives at the Embassy tonight.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997