Just got my new cd of Mantaray and eagerly listened - we all know Into A Swan is a fantastic track but what about the rest?? If you're expecting every track to be as punk sounding as Swan then this isn't for you. Siouxise has a more grown up sound - even jazzy in parts. There are a fair few slower (but still very good) songs and the songs seem to have a more personal tone. All in all a very good cd in Siouxsie's unique style -but don't expect Love In a Void!
I guess that, in this day and age, if Amy Winehouse can get away with putting out an album barely over 40 minutes, then punk/goth/rock high priestess Siouxsie (apply whichever crusty old epithet you prefer) thinks she can do the same, and with one fewer track. Well, she's right!
Having been a little inattentive to her last couple of releases, this album has surely got to skyrocket Siouxsie into whatever music Halls of Fame she's not yet been inducted to. Except that might suggest a coda to a 30-year career which clearly isn't over yet.
Produced with Steve Evans and Charlie Jones, this, like Amy's bestseller from the spring and Roisin Murphy's recent opus, is very much a unified album with an overall vision - the type that those Mercury Music Prize judges are so keen on, and Mantaray deserves to be appreciated with such concentration - only at a very HIGH VOLUME!
I can understand why some die-hard fans might be a little disappointed by its maturity and, for Siouxsie (if no one else), "poppiness". But we've already got Kaleidoscope, we've already got Juju, A Kiss In The Dreamhouse and Boomerang, so why not embrace something new?
When I first heard them in isolation, I wasn't crazy about either the first single, Into A Swan, nor the (better) follow-up, Here Comes That Day; I thought they skated uncomfortably close to self-pastiche. But, cranked up loud, they really hit the spot. Lyrically, one or two of the tracks might seem a little flaccid in places (I think another reviewer has already noted the House of cards/feet of clay mixed metaphor on the current single), but they are delivered with such oomph, and are such well-crafted songs that it doesn't seem to matter after all. "Don't be bitter/Don't be gloomy/All your torment/Flowers blooming" could almost be from Kim Appleby's unlistenably trite "Don't Worry", except that it's from the quietly stunning If It Doesn't Kill You, which reminded me of nothing so much as Siouxsie's version - many years ago - of Strange Fruit, but with a much more epic sweep. So much so that any right-thinking person must think that, if there's a battle on to do the next Bond theme, Siouxsie must now be neck-and-neck with the aforementioned Ms. Winehouse (after Love Is A Losing Game... but I wonder who would generate more column inches?).
Seriously, though, I always thought there was something quite beautiful about Siouxsie's voice - in fact, getting this album made be go out and buy the remastered version of Juju, the mangled vowel sounds of which must be etched deep in my cerebral cortex - and they're all present and correct on Mantaray's compelling closing track, Heaven And Alchemy. Maybe we're "in love with the idea of her", but I when I was soaking up the energy of her stage performances 25 years ago, I never imagined she'd become such a grande dame of music, and still radiating the same energy as she grasped each new baton - the video for Here Comes The Day demonstrates that, and a ticket to one of her live shows is so much more than a vote for nostalgia.
Siouxsie (of Siouxsie & the Banshees) released her first solo album in 2007 called Mantaray. It's a much more melodic and pop orientated album than her previous music, although it retains a distinctly rock sound throughout.
I bought it in early 2009 and I thought it was surprising strong and out and out good on first listen. Then for some reason I never returned to it for a follow up listen until this week.
And it is a surprisingly strong and out and out good album. Not one dud track. The first four songs are 5 star excellent. The remaining six tracks slide a bit in quality but they're still all good and well worth repeat listens. Track nine, They Follow You, has a great guitar part at the end that kicks it above good and into very good. I've listening to it three times in the space of a week, which is very rare for me. It's really good. And now track 10, Heaven And Alchemy, is starting to sound better than it did before. So it might not only be immediately enjoyable, but also a bit of a grower.
A proper ALBUM, and frankly better than any Banshees studio albums I can think of.
There's always been excitement and trepidation at the prospect of new music from Siouxsie, whether with The Banshees or The Creatures (not to mention collaborations with Basement Jaxx and that Morrissey duet), along with eternal polemic over her title - The Ice Queen, Punk Icon/Legend, First Lady of Goth (cringe!), that shrieking old witch who sounds like nails down a blackboard.... (thanks mum..)
What Mantaray does, however, in spectacular, glorious style, is showcase the Siouxsie that is often overlooked - that of bona fide Pop Star. It is at once a complete distillation of everything she's ever done, or been, yet ambitiously heads into new musical territory rather than merely rehash former glories.
While "Loveless", for example, has the same leaden thudding beat as "Nightshift", and "One Mile Below" has a lively percussive texture not dissimilar to her outings with The Creatures,sandwiched between them is the awesome "If It Doesn't Kill You" - a smokey torch song which could easily open a Bond Movie. And why not? The idea of Siouxsie elbowing her way into the same musical arena as the likes of Tina Turner and Sheena Easton and COMPLETELY wiping the floor with them makes me smile - surely a more "punk" thing to do than one record label's suggestion she duet with Marilyn Manson?
"About To Happen" has a great glam-stomp feel to it, saved from hideous pastiche by sheer humour and enthusiasm, "Here Comes That Day" is brassy like Bassey only with Sioux's own lyrical venom, and "Sea of Tranquility" is nothing short of magnificent - a kind of shuffling oceanic lunar odyssey, with more stars in the sky than grains of sand. (Personally I'm relieved to hear it - on Anima Animus there were just black holes.)
Oh and it finishes with a piano ballad. No, really.
Over the years Siouxsie has spoken a number of wise words that have acted as a guiding light, a beacon through my perilous journey through life. Once she said that anyone who doesn't like cats, she doesn't like them. Not only does this seem a very sound principle that has yet to let me down, it is rather the way I feel about Siouxsie herself. So having declared an interest, it may come as little surprise to learn that I like this album, her first solo recording since her career began over thirty years ago. It also marks, I believe, the first time her name has appeared on a composer credit on its own, as it does on One Mile Below.
Of course there are other musicians on the record but unlike the democracy involved with the Creatures and Siouxsie and the Banshees, here their purpose is to support and realize Siouxsie's vision. To this end producers Steve Evans and Charlie Jones at Bath's Riverside Studios have supplied guitars, keyboards, programming, bass guitar and upright bass, anchored throughout by drummer extraordinaire Clive Deamer. All three had previously served time with Robert Plant, and Steve Jones co-produced his recent Mighty Rearranger album. Siouxsie has chosen to set out her stall by showcasing a variety of styles, mostly close to areas she has explored in the past but in fresher settings that highlight her irrepressible vocal gymnastic talents to excellent effect and show her as always moving forward.
On If It Doesn't Kill You she evokes the mood of a Bond movie, while Here Comes That Day is dramatically large in Big Spender Bassey-esque fashion. Several tracks have a chorus of other Siouxsies in the background. Other musicians have been used sparingly; a dulcimer here, some notable Egyptian percussion there, the occasional use of strings and a one man horn section in the form of Terry Edwards on the single Here Comes That Day and on Drone Zone.
Judging from the sound of it, Siouxsie clearly enjoyed the sessions, recorded over time in occasional short bursts, rather like her beloved B-sides sessions, each session involving a commute from her home in France. Sometimes the chemistry that can only come from a unit that regularly plays and performs together is not quite there, though as she has subsequently embarked on a tour with her new musical mates, this minor issue should be addressed on future releases. The album is lean, clocking in at just over 40 minutes, free of filler and sounding better with every play. It isn't the Banshees, it isn't the Creatures, but it is Siouxsie, and to be celebrated.
Siouxsie Sioux has been one of the great survivors of British music. From her punk fashionista beginnings as a mouthy member of the Bromley Contingent, she matured into one of the most powerful and original frontwomen in rock.
Over her thirty-year career she's been an influence on everyone from Polly Harvey to Shirley Manson and Alison Goldfrapp, and her band the Banshees - one of the last of the class of '76 to be signed - redefined punk as something ferocious, feral and ever so slightly decadent. Later, her collaboration with percussionist husband Budgie, the Creatures, was playful, sinister and often ground-breaking.
So here she is post-Banshees, post Creatures, newly single and determined to reinvent her own legend at age 50. Things start promisingly with the wonderful Into A Swan - a transformational and sonically arresting statement of intent.
Sadly things go badly awry on second track About To Happen, a dismally poppy bouncalong that reeks of arch artschool graduates Franz Ferdinand. Like the similarly disappointing They Follow You, it's the kind of song Alison Goldfrapp might dismissively grind under a spike heel.
Mantaray collaborator Charlie Jones, who's worked for Alison, might be the link here - but the problem is that this kind of glacial glam glitz doesn't really suit the Sioux. Despite the lifelong addiction to costumes and warpaint, she's too big, too real. Framing her in ironic arrangements just makes her sound like she's shading into self-parody. She's never been the greatest lyricist in the world, either, and lines like "your house of cards is tumbling all around you with its feet of clay" underline her status as queen of the mixed metaphor.
The songs work better when producer and co-writer Steve Evans, who engineered Robert Plant's Mighty ReArranger brings in some of the muscle and aplomb of that album -- transforming some of the weaker songs (One Mile Below, Here Comes The Day) on this shortish album into unexpected triumphs.
The best two songs are perhaps the most unpredictable. If It Doesn't Kill You would make a perfect Bond theme, all harsh allure and murderous sensuality; it also recalls the weary romanticism of the late Billy Mackenzie in his "Glamour Chase" phase. But best by far is the standout Sea of Tranquility: full of the moon, toweringly melodic, full of submarine delights, it finds Siouxsie on the back of a manta ray -- hidden in "the ghost of a roar from the sea shore". It's a return to the kind of form she last displayed on the Banshees' Land's End from 1986's Tinderbox.
Sioux's voice is still a thing of magnificence - deep, smoke-soaked, it has actually improved with age, redolent now of a voodoo priestess or Snow White's wicked stepmother. The material on Mantaray almost lives up to that mythical promise: but not quite.
After Tinderbox the Banshees started to wobble and with the exception of Peepshow, Siouxsie didn't make a flawless album again with the banshees or the creatures. That's not to say that those albums aren't bad but they don't stand up with Siouxsie's best, but thankfully this does. I don't know if Siouxsie is going to release another album, but the good thing about this is that it works in two ways. It is either a promising start of a vitalised Siouxsie or a last grand hurrah before she fades into retirement.
I really like this album, especially Siouxsie's voice which has deepened even further so she sounds evermore witchlike and so far away from the girl who screamed Jigsaw Feeling all those years ago. Into a Swan is the single and opens the album. It is a classic Siouxsie track and on this album it is not in bad company. Here comes that Day is another great track, which has a kind of glam rock flare to it, as does Swan, About To Happen and They Follow You. All of those are strong tracks and possibly the best on the album.
Two tracks are a little strange in comparison to the other tracks and I suppose you can take or leave them. First is One Mile Below which draws somewhat on the sound of The Creatures and Budgie's tribal drumming but of course without him it is let effective. This is followed by more experimentation on Drone Zone which is certainly a fitting title, because the song does sound a little like a drone. Additionally it has a jazzy tint which is listenable after a while.
Then there are softer tracks like If It Doesn't Break You, which is definately about Siouxsie's then recent divorce from her husband Budgie, as is the darker and more fierce, Loveless. The final track on the album is probably the best. Heaven and Alchemy is a wonderful piano led ballad and a nice way of rounding off this wonderful album.