Mantaray – Siouxsie Sioux

Release Year: 2007

Rating: 9/10

Last year Gothic icon Siouxsie Sioux sent fans into a tizzy when she released her first new song in eight years. It was for the series finale of Hannibal and we haven’t heard anything since, but many are hoping it’ll lead to new material. Until then, let’s look at her debut solo album, which also had fans gushing about it when it first came out. Rather than sounding exactly like the Banshees, Sioux gives fans a musical experience they wouldn’t forget.

The album starts with the excellent “Into A Swan,” which establishes a different sound for the singer. The music is stark and gritty with buzzing noises and lots of dirty guitars. Fans will notice how this track, and many on the album, is more rock oriented than her previous material. But rather than being comfortable with the rock edge, bongos and some light synth come in during the bridge to pump up the energetic beat of the song. Something about the music and how Sioux sings “Feelings so strong can’t be ignored/I burst out /I’m transformed” makes you feel like a bad ass when you hear it. Since it deals with themes of transformation, it’s like this feeling was intentional.

About to Happen” is another great track that emphasizes Sioux’s new rock-electronic fused sound. It starts out really dirty with the guitars, but then has a dazzling synth riff during the chorus. It’s unexpected but it really spices up the song. From there the mood changes. Distorted guitars are replaced with thudding drums and stomping horns for the track “Here Comes that Day.” As she sings about someone who only wanted the good in life and is finally getting their comeuppance, the music turns into a slinky groove taking you back to the seedy jazz clubs of the 20s. As she croons “Oh here comes the day” you can picture her singing in a lounge with a stand up bass player right next to her. To make things even more tantalizing it has this sexy groove you can’t enough of. Sioux always had this sultry vibe to her and it comes out perfectly on this song.

This is a really stellar album as there isn’t a single disappointing moment on it. The way she purrs on “Drone Zone” is irresistible and her trance-like singing on the chugging Latin tinged “One Mile Below” is so much fun you can’t help but dance. While the album is full of her confidence and determination, like on “Loveless” where she sounds hungry for a lover, there are some moments that bring the mood down. “If It Doesn’t Kill You” is a somber ballad about fighting through all the bad things life has to offer and letting it make you a stronger person. Sioux offers to be a source of comfort as she sings “Don’t be afraid/don’t shed a tear/I’m here.” It’s a positive outlook, but the entire thing sounds pretty depressing.

They Follow You” is one of those hidden gems that shouldn’t work. The music is insanely upbeat and different from anything heard on the album so far. As soon as you get used to it, some tambourine and keys are tossed in changing the mood to an Abba song. You start to wonder where this is all going while Sioux coyly sings about scars that will always be with you no matter how hard you try to cover them. There’s even a hint of disco when it gets to the chorus. On paper the song sounds like a terrible idea, but in Soiux’s hands it’s a delight.

The closing song “Heaven and Alchemy” is downright chilling. It’s a haunting tune that starts out with her sleek vocals and a muted piano. Things don’t get eerie until the second verse where you can hear her ethereal wailing making her sound like an apparition. It does a great job at setting up this chilling atmosphere, but it gets more upbeat during the second half of the song when the jazzy beat plays in conjunction with the somber piano. Her delivery makes it sound like her swan song, which I guess makes sense she wouldn’t release new material for the next eight years.

Everyone knows solo outings don’t always work out for artists. Either no one cares about the music or it sounds too much like their main band. That’s not the case here; this album is phenomenal. Sioux manages to establish herself as solo musician instead of just the singer of the Banshees, which can be hard to do. Not once while listening to the album did I think “this reminds me of the Banshees.” Somehow she successfully stepped out of the shadow of her popular band. Let’s hope we get more new music from her soon.

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