Music

Siouxsie: Mantaray

It took Siouxsie Sioux nearly 30 years to complete her first, full-length solo album, an eclectic mix of styles ranging from industrial to jazz. Mantaray was worth the wait.


Siouxsie

Mantaray

Label: Decca
US Release Date: 2007-10-02
UK Release Date: 2007-09-10
Amazon
iTunes

It took Siouxsie Sioux nearly thirty years to complete her first, full-length solo album, but boy, was it ever worth the wait. To be fair, Siouxsie didn't take the Axl Rose Chinese Democracy route to finishing and releasing Mantaray, because unlike the Guns n' Roses frontman, Siouxsie actually released her album. Rather, it took a culmination of nearly 30 years worth of musical and life experience to produce what obviously sounds like a labor of love and the sparkling result of decades of growth as an artist.

During the mid-to-late-'70s, Siouxsie and the Banshees burst onto the scene with a blend of punky goth that was the alternative to alternative punk. A darker shade of Art House, Siouxsie and the Banshees stamped their influence on the likes of the Cure (lead singer Robert Smith served a very brief tenure with the Banshees before going on to legendary status with his own band) and Shirley Manson of Garbage, whose own vocals share a number of similarities with those of Siouxsie Sioux.

After the Banshees disbanded, Siouxsie and drummer Budgie (her husband then) made their part-time project the Creatures a full-time endeavor. Ironically enough, although she had never done any solo material on her own, throughout the mid-'90s and onward, Siouxsie appeared as a guest collaborator with such artists as Morrissey, Marc Almond, and Basement Jaxx.

Fast-forwarding several years later, Siouxsie's voice sounds almost exactly the same as it did at the Banshees' inception. Not needing much improvement to begin with, time has not taken its toll on her vocals. Powerful and terribly beautiful at the same time, Siouxsie's intonation bears a fine layer of grit underlying a rich patina of elegance. While they've ripened slightly, the most significant improvement on Siouxsie's already fine set of pipes is the richness of meaning packed into her dark, deliberate delivery and phrasing.

Mantaray's production team of Steve Evans and Charlie Jones take up guitar and bass duties, respectively, in addition to the synth programming that fills out the disc. This makeshift band on Siouxsie's solo outing sounds fuller, heavier, and darker -- a sharp departure from the much more stripped-down, punk-bordering-on-New Wave sound of the Banshees or the low-fi, drum-driven, art house tribalism of the Creatures. The resulting eclectic mix of rock, industrial, jazz, and even vaguely dance/trip-hop sound of Mantaray can best be termed under the umbrella of "angry pop", while searching for a common thread to bind this bizarre union together. Several unusual combinations pop up on the disc. Spiced with a horn section, "Here Comes That Day" is subtly influenced by jazz and cabaret while "Drone Zone" continues that vibe with Siouxsie channeling Carol Channing as she vacillates between almost Broadway-like, heavy alto vocal affectations and light, airy intonations.

Unmistakably feminine despite the deep, melodic snarl to her vocals, Siouxsie is without a doubt the driving force of this album. Powerful, gritty, and personal, the lyrics and delivery growlingly echo the sound of a woman coming into her own and rediscovering herself after having been entrenched in a long relationship. A metamorphosis of sorts is marked by the disc's opening track and lead single, the mildly industrial "Into a Swan". Possessed of a winding groove of distorted guitars, there is a dance-like quality to "Into a Swan", which is aided by the tribal drums and bongos that feature prominently. Continuing the theme of evolution through pain, some of the tracks such as the retro-sounding "Loveless" and torch song swagger of "If It Doesn't Kill You" may be allusions to the dissolution of Siouxsie's 1991 marriage to Budgie, which ended in 2007. Easily a standout track on Mantaray, "Loveless" is drenched in bass-centric, steadily chugging power chords that beat a path of Middle Eastern flavoring amidst the heavy guitar and synth blend. Siouxsie's vocals are top notch on this piece, conveying weary resignation, anger, disappointment, and an aura of soldiering on in the search for greener pastures.

The whole of Mantaray is a benchmark achievement for a woman who has already cemented her status as an icon. This time, Siouxsie further galvanizes her reputation by going it alone and emerging as an even more powerful force to be reckoned with.

7

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Kehr was one of the best long-form essay writers people read for clear and sometimes brutally honest indictments of film.

It's perhaps too trite and rash to conclude that the age of good, cogent film criticism is over. They still exist out there, always at print publications such as The New Yorker and at major newspapers like The New York Times. An argument can be made that the late, legendary film critic Roger Ebert became a better writer when he departed from cinema and covered literature, book collecting, or even the simplest pleasures of life. If we look at the film criticism of James Agee from the '40s, or even the short but relevant stint of novelist and short story writer Graham Greene as a film critic, we come to understand that the greatest writing about film went beyond the spectrum of what they saw on the screen.
Keep reading... Show less
8

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image