Siouxsie Sioux - Mantaray

by Deany Sevigny Rating: Release Date:

Bursting from early retirement, obscurity, and her divorce from former Banshees and The Creatures drummer Budgie, 2007 saw Siouxsie Sioux channelling her energies into doing what she always did best: creating outstanding pop music. MantaRay is her first solo venture after thirty years fronting post-punk powerhouses, to be precise. And, in short, it's a triumph.

Powerful opener 'Into a Swan' melds distorted synth and old school chugging riffs over Siouxsie's domineering croon about metamorphosis into something ultimately more potent. Hurtling towards the song's climax with "I burst out, I'm transformed..." the undeniably sensual tension reaches melting point before Siouxsie declares: "I burst right into - into a swan", and we're reminded immediately just what kind of powerhouse this post-punk python is capable of creating. It is swiftly followed by the 'My Sharona'-esque 'About To Happen', all about the excitement that change brings and the incredible journey she's about to embark on, it sounds like a football anthem in outer space. 'Here Comes That Day' touches on a macabre sense of schadenfreude in a cabaret-noir style that would have Marlene Dietrich's skeleton shivering in its grave, before 'Loveless', which sounds almost like a spiritual successor to her and the Banshees' fabulous 'Face to Face' from 1992, sees her coming to terms with the mourning process after a bitter break-up. Pleading "What am I gonna do? How can I face the truth?" over tense guitar riffs and a mechanical drumbeat, there's still a dark air of sexual tension beneath the hurt and sorrow, and by heck, does it keep you hooked!

After the stately and sombre intermission of 'If It Doesn't Kill You', 'One Mile Below' sounds like it's coming from deep in the heart of some treacherous jungle. Cue mental images of Siouxsie crawling around the recording studio in one of her catsuits and head dresses, providing the bird squawks and tribal chanting from the very tip of her vocal chords. It's infectious, and uses double-tracking and harmonising to unsettling effect, creating the illusion of several different voices singing to you from all different directions, only previously heard put to expert use by Karin Driejer Andersson on The Knife's Silent Shout. Towards the album's close we have 'Drone Zone' and 'Sea of Tranquility' offering a further sense of cabaret atmosphere for the listener, before 'They Follow You' kicks its ambitious 80s pop into gear and the beautiful and soulful closing track 'Heaven & Alchemy' carries you off into a hopeful dreamscape.

Ultimately, MantaRay is an infinitely confident and uplifting album, written as a means to siphon the emotions Siouxsie felt after her divorce; hope, regret, sorrow, excitement, heartbreak, and determination abound, and all are conveyed soulfully. If MantaRay isn't hard evidence that her return to British music in a time of landfill indie and nu-bloody-rave wasn't welcome, I don't know what is.

Best Tracks: 'Into A Swan', 'Here Comes that Day', 'One Mile Below'

Dean Birkett

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