Skunk Anansie: energy and freedom above all else

There’s something you can’t do with Skunk Anansie’s music: put it in a box. Especially not a nicely labeled box full of stereotypes that, even with the best intentions in the world, only serve to marginalize an identity or a message. Skunk Anansie will have none of that. Only the essential remains, and that’s the band’s pure, authentic rock energy.  
Although Black Traffic is already the band’s fifth studio album, it’s only their second record since they re-formed in 2009. Without ever giving in to the current trends, Skunk Anansie remain focused on the fundamental: rock songs and the huge energy they display on stage.

But this time, the composition and recording processes is different. The musicians used to record their songs on the go, playing in an almost live way. This time, Skunk Anansie took the time to experiment in the studio to compose the songs, adding samples and structuring the various tracks. But they weren’t about to record a cold, mechanical album. The band has also tried to go for the same energy that underlines their songs on stage, giving them a very rock sound. Here lies the album’s soul. Skunk Anansie’s priority was to write and play real songs. Songs that would feel energetic and powerful on stage, songs that would mix styles. That’s what drove them to collaborate with Shaka Ponk on “Spit You Out”, attracted as they were by the French band’s original musical identity. For this production, Skunk Anansie have also increased their independence and control. In an interview to MALExtra dated September, 13th, 2012, Skin explains: « We have always had 100% artist control and we have always recorded the albums ourselves so in that way nothing has changed. The changes have mainly been economic and organizational as we have got control of who is spending our money? And how are they spending money? To make sure that money is being spent in worthwhile way and not on someone having a £1000 lunch trying to impress somebody else »
Skunk Anansie are rock, but the genre matters less than the values that are at stake. Skunk Anansie play rock because melodies and electric guitars are the very foundations of their music – that, and raw energy. But above all, they’re rock because they have the freedom to disregard codes and trends to play whatever they want to play, say things they care about and talk about every subject. The members’ backgrounds are rooted in several universes. Far from limiting themselves to one model, the Brits play with stylistic elements, superimpose and mix them, while maintaining coherence and unity in their record. This diversity comes from the very core of the band, as Skin explained during our interview, last September: « We did a lot of experimentation on this album because we have all different backgrounds: Ace comes from a metal background, Mark from a rock one, Cass from a funk one and mine is more reggae. Culturally, we’re from different parts of England, so we do what we want and don’t care if a song is not, for example, in the rock genre. » Alongside the punchy, heavy “I Will Break You” lies the very soul “I Hope You Get To Meet Your Hero”. The catchy melodies of “Drowning” flank the electric discharges of “Sticky Fingers In Your Honey”. The metallic, slightly discordant chorus of “Satisfied?” precedes the warm and luminous “Our Summer Kills The Sun”. Somewhere else, electro arrangements rub shoulders with a classical string ensemble.
Black Traffic is a musical and emotional mosaic with unity. Behind the patchwork of atmospheres and samples, you’ll find a series of constants inherent in the album. Black Traffic is dark, intense, and violent. Dark, because Skunk Anansie live in and talk about a difficult era in terms of economics, politics and ideology. The musicians were influenced by the experiences their relatives and friends have been going through, and by what they’ve seen during their various tours around the world – our world, this globalized black market the title, Black Traffic, refers to. Or even the black monster on the cover of the album, a composite and protean creature that changes form depending on the way you look at it. If you look closer, it turns out to be articulated by human bodies, the machine’s engine. The band doesn’t want to become politicized, but that doesn’t mean the songs on Black Traffic aren’t committed. It’s the case with “This Is Not A Game”, and “Sticky Fingers In Your Honey”. Skunk Anansie may well have produced their most political album to date. Skin explains this evolution in an interview published on More Than The Music in September 2012: « We talk about how things affect us, and how we feel about various things. Sometimes it’s personal, sometimes it’s political. We never go out to be political but we’re living in intense times and in that way it’s going to be a big topic for us in the writing. »
Once again, Black Traffic cannot be reduced to this sole aspect. The lyrics written by Skin still manage to touch and mean something to each and every one of the listeners, through a well-crafted ambiguity that allows for personal interpretation. Crude, passionate, and physical, Skin denounces and commits herself to the point of sadness, pain, sometimes even insult. But despite the torment, the band doesn’t give in to fatalistic darkness. Songs lke “Diving Down” and “Our Summer Kills The Sun” boast clear, more serene melodies. “I Hope You Get To Meet You’re Hero” is also extremely delicate. That’s why Black Traffic is not just a dark, straightforward rock album. It’s a comprehensive, committed, coherent and artistically asserted record. Skunk Anansie have evolved in their artistic approach while remaining true to their essence. And they prove that, three years after they got back together following a long silence, they still have many, many things to say.
Album Black Traffic released September, 17th, 2012 via VeryCords.

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