Review of Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt

Skunk Anansie - The Sonic Collective

Please read our selection article of Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt before reading our reviews below.
Summary: 
This month’s pick of Skunk Anansie by Greg Jorgensen is definitely the first time I(Darren) have seen the group so divided. While Greg, Alain and Scott Gregory liked this album and found lots of great things to say about the music, lyrics and the lead singer Skin’s aggressive vocals, Scott Coates and I totally thought this album, to be blunt, sucked. As I(Darren) author these summaries I’ll try not to be biased but it might be hard as I just don’t see what the other 3 thought was so great.
The sound or Paranoid and Sunburnt was very edgy for when it was recorded in 1994 and as music was going through a huge transition at this time this aggressive and hard rocking scratchy sound was welcomed. It seems like North America missed Skunk Anansie when they first entered the scene as non of us, including Greg knew anything about them until years later.
If you like the sound of Alanis Morissette I could see that you would also like this band too. I personally thought Alanis and others did it much better in the era but to each your own. It might be interesting to note that Scott Coates and myself are the oldest on this panel so that might have been the difference in our opinions(grumpy old men, lol) but I’m not sure. All the reviews are worth a read just to see what differences we had.
What was cool about Skunk Anansie: Paranoid and Sunburnt:

  • There was much praise of the lead signer Skin’s voice and her charged lyrics with social and feminist themes
  • Some of us enjoyed discovering this band that was literally unheard of by the other 4 in the Sonic Collective

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • Even those who liked the album agreed that not all the songs were strong
  • Darren and Scott Coates hated this album. It seemed too over-the-top
  • I felt that others in this era like Alanis and Living Color were more genuine and had much better songs.
  • Some of felt that musically they were not very progressive and it sounded derivative of 80s hair metal.

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Our Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 3
Would we recommend?: 2.5
Influenced our tastes: 2
Worth the hype? 2.5
Read our full individual reviews below. 
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

Greg-JorgensenGreg Jorgensen’s Review – This was Greg’s Pick

It was great to be able to listen to Paranoid and Sunburnt again with a few decades’ worth of musical exposure and experience to fall back on. Like i said in my selection post, this one never really grabbed me solidly enough to warrant deeper exploration and I forgot about it. But I’m really glad I was able to dive back in, as I (mostly) enjoyed it much more than I remember as a young punk kid.

The first song on the album, “Selling Jesus”, is one I remember most, as it was featured in a trailer for the really underrated movie Strange Days, which I analyzed frame-by-frame for a final project in film school (the trailer, not the movie). Clearly an anti-religion rant, the song hasn’t lost any of its potency in the ensuing years, and I was hooked as soon as it kicked off. Like the rest of the album, it’s loaded with political, religious, racial, and sexual innuendo and commentary. Lyrics like these were pretty popular with some of the more famous bands in the 90s, but are sadly lacking with popular contemporary artists.

Another standout was “Intellectualize My Blackness”, a song that I remember dismissing back in ’95 because it came off as pandering political speech, but which I really dug this time around, especially the funky, fuzzy guitar/bass that’s impossible not to tap your feet to. “I Can Dream”, “Weak”, and ‘Rise Up” were all standouts for me, but I didn’t find the same intensity or power to the others on the album. Interesting and lyrically potent, yes, and I’d happily listen to them anytime, but one can see the seeds of Skunks future “poppy” albums in some, such as “Charity” and “100 Ways to be a Good Girl”, which were the weak links.

One of the things that I think really draws me to this album is Skin’s tremendous voice, which she wields impressive control over. I read somewhere she has the same range as Mariah Carrey, although thankfully she uses it with a bit more intensity. Doing some research for this review, I also turned up a story that said Skin once duetted with Pavarotti in a concert for the Dalai Lama, which is…weird, but cool. So I’m clearly not alone in thinking she’s the distinctive, powerful heart of the band.

As I said in the intro, I’m really glad I was able to listen to some of Skin’s earlier stuff. Despite only really loving about half of the songs and finding the rest good but not awesome, I found Paranoid and Sunburnt to be an energetic, relentless tour de force that I listened to about a dozen times. Indeed, it’s a bit of shame that their more recent releases have gone in a different, more pop-centric direction. Skunk really had something here, and I would have loved it if they continued along the same lines with the same intensity. But for now, I’ll keep this one on heavy rotation, and go back to listen to Skunk’s earlier albums with a more open mind, er, ear.

Overall opinion: 4.5
Would we recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4.5

alain-dupuisAlain DuPuis’s Review

My first thought as I hit play on track one was “Where the fuck was this album when I was an angsty teenager”? It’s got all the elements I was into back then. Heavy, grinding guitars, just the right amount of feedback, rhythmic bass, pseudo-aggressive lyrical content – It would have been right at home between my Nirvana, Bush, and Our Lady Peace albums. Unfortunately for me, I was unaware of this band’s existence until Greg’s pick, and I’m no longer an angsty teenager. That last fact actually doesn’t matter much, because I really like this album.
Paranoid and Sunburnt definitely has that mid-90’s alternative rock sound that some music journalists might lump into the “post-grunge” category. (A term that all too often carries the negative connotation of sounding derivative and devoid of creativity.) For my money, the album is a little too weird sounding for me to really consider derivative, though there are many sonic quirks that give away the 1995 release date. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.
My favourite track on the album is Selling Jesus. Lyrical content aside, it’s a fun song to rock out to. Not a bad choice for their first single. I’m sure the devoutly religious among us might find the lyrics questionable, but Skunk Anansie is all about controversial protest songs. They aren’t afraid “go there” when it comes to race, religion, and a variety of other social topics.
Charity is another favourite for me. The slow/fast/soft/loud dynamics that we saw in the Pixies was blatantly present on this track, which got me wondering if Skunk Anansie was yet another band on the list of those who were influenced by The Pixies. Lead singer Skin’s vocal talents were all over this track. She killed it.
My least favourite track was Little Baby Swastikkka. (It should be stated that I don’t actually dislike the song. It just happened to be my least favourite on the album.) Perhaps I found it just a bit too repetitive for me. Perhaps it was because I find the lyrical content a bit… odd? Maybe I just missed the point they were trying to make entirely.
I really enjoyed this pick. I like when bands aren’t afraid to tackle topics that are controversial. There was a great mix of aggression, depth, and finesse that would have appealed as much to my teenage self as it appeals to me, though likely for different reasons. I’m pretty confident in saying that at least a few of the tracks on Paranoid and Sunburnt are going to be on permanent rotation in my 90’s playlist, and I’m definitely keen to explore the rest of the band’s discography.
Overall opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: –
Worth the hype? 4
 
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300
Scott Coates’s Review
It was bound to happen. We’d hit a selection that absolutely didn’t click with someone in the group and I’ve arrived at that point with this selection: Skunk Anansie – Paranoid and Sunburnt. I enjoy a wide range of musical styles: rock, heavy stuff, rap, jazz, ska, and bands that can incorporate a few of these into their sound, but this band and album simply stink. I just can’t find redeeming qualities in this work. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of Skunk Anansie when they were put forth and am thankful my life prior to this wasn’t exposed to them.
Each time I thought about listening to the album I found myself not wanting to, and getting a third listen in today will mark the final time before I delete it from my iCloud to ensure it doesn’t further pollute my musical collection.
The initial licks on opening track Selling Jesus almost sound like a 311 tune, then the vocals kick in and its all downhill for the remainder of the album. Simply put, the singer’s vocals are shrill, she’s trying way too hard, and they absolutely grate on me in every way, shape and form. Then there are the lyrics: again, she’s trying way to hard to make a profound statement, change the world, and the result is contrived, dull and juvenile.
The band itself is a reasonably tight unit, their sound is tolerable, but combined with the singer, this is a musical A-Bomb. Boom – it’s off my computer!
Overall opinion: 1
Would I recommend?: 0
Influenced my tastes: 0
Worth the hype? 0
 
Darren Scott
Darren Scott’s Review
Skunk Anansie, oh Skunk Anansie. Who art thou Skunk Anansie?
After listening to Skunk Anansie this past month, I don’t know if I got the answer from their Paranoid and Sunburnt album. I had never heard of this band until Greg picked them for June and I am always excited to get to know new bands. After reading about them I dove right in to the album.
First listens can be wildly deceiving for me as I have often been cool on an album at first but then after a few more listens grown to love them. After the first listen of this album I was definitely cool to their sound. It sounded very dated to me and I struggled to connect with any particular songs though some were better than others.
I then tried several more listens and even went as far to take Greg’s advice and listen to it really loud. I drove around in my car and cranked it to an 11 and really tried to get into the album. I think that if I had heard this album in 1994 I may have liked it better but it just didn’t stand the test of time for me and I still didn’t connect to any songs.
I respect that they sounded ok though I wasn’t a big fan of the drum track and thought it sounded like a metal hair band drummer from the 80s. The main problem for me was that their sound reminded my of bands like Living Color and Alanis Morrisette who I felt were much better in this niche of music and they had songs that I loved then and still do today. I appreciated Skin’s voice and the story of the lyrics was sometimes good but I just never connected and found this cheesy. More than once I found myself thinking of them like I do many pop and pop rock bands that just try to make hits with not much musical ability.

This was the first time ever I didn’t continue to listen to the album for the entire month. Each time I tried to listen I just couldn’t do it. About a week ago I was deleting songs and though I felt a bit bad Skunk Anansie ended up deleted.
Just before writing this I did go listen to some of their newer songs and I did like Charlie Big Potato and some other songs. I don’t think I would buy them and I appreciate that many people loved this kind of music but this was not for me at all. Sorry Greg.
Overall opinion: 1.5
Would I recommend?: 0
Influenced our tastes: 0
Worth the hype: 1
 
Scott GregoryScott Gregory’s Review

So I’d never heard of this group until now, despite having watched Strange Days a couple dozen times. I think back to 1995 and what I was listening to and I could see this fitting right in. I’d probably be jumping around singing, “Ya! Screw those White Anglo Saxon Protestants! Oh, wait a minute…”
Yes, my father was born in England, and I’m as white and Anglican as can be. Fortunately, my family is working class and Dr. Dre had already informed me last month how horrible a plague I am on society. Let me tell you, it was refreshing to be crucified in rhyme for my class privilege instead of racial. Diversity truly is the spice of life.
On to the actual music
Overall I really enjoyed the feel to this album. They contributed to Strange Days, but I think they would have been equally comfortable appearing on The Crow soundtrack as well. Henry Rollins, RATM, The Jesus and Mary Chain, all great choices to toss on a mixed tape with Skunk. (Was I still making mixed tapes in 95? Of course, I’m Star Lord.)
My top three picks for singles:
Selling Jesus is a great lead-off track. I mean really, can you ever have enough Jesus? I have to tell you, in case you’re an atheist listening to this song, I don’t think we Anglicans have smelly fingers post-coitus. Well, no more smelly than anyone else’s that is. Anyway, the production on this track is pretty raw, which I actually like on tracks from these kinds of bands. I want rawness oozing out of the amps. Skin’s vocals really carry the energy through, and I can only imagine jumping into the pit with this one.
Little Baby Swastika had some really great bass lines. I’ve always been a sucker for a good bridge loaded with thrumming bass, and this song delivers. I’m really a little lost on the lyrics. I feel a little too removed from 95 and the UK to really get a sense of what the racial situation would have been there. I know race is still an issue everywhere, but this feels like a response to something specific and I’m really curious to go dig around a bit.
And Here I stand is big, beautiful and loud. This is a great live track with thumping percussion and big riffs coming off the guitars. This song would mix in right between Maggie’s Farm by RATM and Liar by Rollins (hey, you gotta come down sometime.) Aaand, that’s when I’d have to break for water. Man, I don’t know if I’m in good enough shape to own this tape I’m building!
By the numbers
Overall opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 20yr old me: 4. Me now: 3
Influenced our tastes: 4 (back then, this would have slide into my collection smoothly)
Worth the hype: 3
Final thought
Go have a look at James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), now go look at Mark on the band’s page and tell me he doesn’t look like James’ older, buffer brother that used to beat him up when he tried to hang out with the band. Who’s laughing now James? Good luck trying to meet Sarah Michelle Geller now. Should have been nicer to your little bro, bro.

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