Music Review: Siouxsie Sioux, Mantaray

As a child of the 80’s, I approach any new recordings by 80’s artists with extreme caution. These people informed my musical taste, and they are iconic, if only in my mind, and I’d like to keep it that way. So, when I found Siouxsie’s Mantaray, and my friend Jonathan sent it to me, I was excited but worried. I’m not a die hard fan, but I still don’t want her embarrassing herself. Well, there’s no chance of that with Mantaray.

A lot of it is better than the Banshees stuff. I heaved a sigh of relief. She’s always better when she keeps it a identifiably melodic, and who isn’t? She’s at her best when there is big, trademark, warlike percussion behind her, and so she’s at her best here. Into a Swan is the radio single, and it’s a pretty good declaration (“I burst out, I’m transformed”) for a woman who has been a seminal influence on music since 1976 – that would be 32 years – longer than most readers of this review have been alive.

If it were only as good as the first track, I’d have been satisfied, but then it got really good. She rocks into About to Happen, which feels subtly like a much more fun This Wheel’s on Fire. It’s not her best lyric, or emotion, but it’s got me rockin’ in my seat, and then it got even better. Here Comes the Day is the first of three ready-to-go 007 themes that puts chills on your skin and makes you think of Daniel Craig, so how bad can it be? (“Here comes the rain on your parade.“) And then it hit me: in much the same way as Morrissey is the new Sinatra, Siouxsie Sioux is the new Shirley Bassey, and I’m all for it. There’s always been something about Siouxsie that recalls another era, while being completely modern.

The album continues at full-speed with Loveless, which is as hypnotic and dreamy as it gets, and again, completely satisfying. Track 5, If It Doesn’t Kill You, is arguably the best track on the album, and another one unmistakably ready for Bond in which she imparts a legitimately-learned law: “If it doesn’t kill you, it will shape you. If it doesn’t break you, it will make you.” It’s even perfectly named for a Bond film. Maybe I’ll write one. They pare the song down to simply Siouxsie and a piano spareness, and we’re rapt. The voice is velvet, just abrasive enough to make your skin flush pink. One Mile Below is another solid track, with plenty of Siouxsie-in-a-drain-pipe echo from the old days and Adam Ant highwayman drums to remind you of this gal’s rich heritage.

I wasn’t sure if I’d really grown musically enough to ‘figure out’ Siouxsie entirely, or if she’d just gotten mainstream enough for all of the stuff to be accessible, and then there was Drone Zone, which makes me a little seasick, and has an artistic intent that makes it more apt for a Tim Burton musical; it needs visuals to show you the horizon and stave off the nausea. Nothing’s perfect, and maybe I’m still learning. From Drone Zone‘s ebb and flow, we drift into The Sea of Tranquility, a dreamy little (again) Bondesque ballad with a sexy little bossa nova beat in the background, and a lyric that gives the album its name – “on the back of a Mantaray“.

In the home stretch, my friend Jonathan‘s favorite track They Follow You, which he said would get me, and it has. It’s all about the chord progression which has a perfect, homecoming resolve to it that lets you know we’re almost at the end of the album, and that she knows you’re in love with her at this point.

Sam laughs at me because I love show and tell. It’s the exhibitionist in me. I love to expose Sam to new music. He’s 6 years younger than I, and so he missed most of the 80’s. I can’t help but feel like my Mom must have when she was exposing me to the music of the 60’s when I was a kid, more inherently involved with the material due to the experiences she had with the music as it happened. I will put Siouxsie on for Sam, more than once, because she’s really one of a kind, and really important. He studied music, so I think he’ll appreciate the genius, or not. I wasn’t that mad for her when I first heard her either.

siouxsiebighairsmall.jpgShe wraps up the album with a beautiful, heartfelt encore, Heaven and Alchemy, and I detect a little motown and country influence in its arrangement and backup (if you can get around the fact that it’s Siouxsie singing it). In it, she tells me “you’re in love with the idea of me”, and she’s right. There’s always been something about Siouxsie Sioux that has recalled another era, Man Ray, Nazimova, Garbo, and at the very same time as she is completely modern – and let’s not forget Punk – and as my iTunes “Siouxie” playlist finishes Mantaray and goes into 1978’s Hong Kong Garden, I see that to know Siouxsie is to love Siouxsie, even if you didn’t love her that much the first time.

1 Response to “Music Review: Siouxsie Sioux, Mantaray”

  1. 1 andrew m.
    Monday, March 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I have read some of these reviews and I am shocked. This album is by far a “great album”, it seems siouxsie and that great style of hers was taken over by her trying to “sell albums”. I have been a siouxsie fan for going on 20 years, have seen her live over 10 times, and I feel that besides that, even if you have not heard much from her you could have this opinion. The album is dated, and looses siouxsie’s ability to never cash in on todays music, and ability to do things her way (instead of outside writers and them trying to show their ability). To me the album was cold and boring I do however think the albums cover was brilliant and I could see it as a “creatures” cover, for most people that I speak to, the cover pulls you in and then you re-sell it after 1-3 listens. I am not amused by her ability to no longer have a “Creatures” website. This album has got to be next to “Superstition” as one of her worst. Both cold and on exile from character from that great siouxsie style and produced quick enough to just get by, by getting it out. Besides this review I do feel there are several ok and good songs on the album..but that just is not good enough. SIouxsie may be the ice queen but she did not have to take that literal.

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