SKUNK ANANSIE- ‘Wonderlustre’
What’s the difference between growing up and getting old? Well, one usually means development, maturity, confidence and clarity. And the other means teeth falling out and eyes glazing over. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, the latter comes with a little grumpy belligerence but most of the time it means going soft, going off the boil, and fading away. Just ask Skunk Anansie. Ok so the first new material in almost ten years from the previously thrilling indie outfit isn’t quite that bad but ‘Wonderlustre’ is not the assured, improved sound of a band back for good, it’s a soft, slushy slight return.
‘God Loves Only You’ hardly kicks the door in but does build to a silky, slick chorus that reminds what Skunk can do, and is ten times better than much of what follows. The middle of the album sags horribly, swallowed up by effete, ineffectual and throwaway numbers like ‘The Sweetest Thing’ and ‘You Saved Me’. Talent never disappears completely of course. ‘Feeling the Itch’ is a serpentine stunner, I Will Stay…’ is beautiful, close (but no cigar) to the sort of genuinely affecting brilliant balladry this band used to do three or four times an album, and ‘Over the Love’ is superb, the sort of solid gold song that could make Skunk Anansie stars all over again, if it had anything else to go with it.
Sure, it’s been ten years so perhaps it’s unfair to measure this stuff up against the band’s back catalogue but the fact that it consistently comes up short, comes up wanting, comes up sounding like such a different group, can mean no good things. In the end ‘Wonderlustre’ just doesn’t have the venom, brawn, beauty or brains to compete- it’s just so ordinary and painfully average. And for a band like Skunk Anansie, that’s probably worse than it being flat out terrible. This is the sound of getting old.