Review Summary: Tones down the preaching and shows signs of maturity through better ballads, but does not improve on the band's debut due to inconsistency & the lack of genuinely memorable standout tracks.
With a rock band containing a singer that well and truly stands out from the crowd and a concentration on controversial political lyrics, is it any wonder that Rage Against The Machine producer Garth Richardson wanted to be involved with English 4 piece Skunk Anansie? Following their very good debut 'Paranoid & Sunburnt', the band return here with the always difficult 2nd album 'Stoosh'.
In interviews following the success of their debut, the band tried to distance themselves from being political. Yet, what do they go and name this album's opener; 'Yes Its F**king Political'. A track not entirely dissimilar to the opener from 'Paranoid...' ('Selling Jesus'), the point is clearly made here but the end result isn't exactly outstanding. In fact, Skin's vocals verge on grating during this track, which is disappointing since she is such a major part of the band as a whole.
Strangely (& fortunately) enough, Richardson's production doesn't lead the band down the controversial and preachy political leanings of the debut and if anything it is toned down here, with only the so-so 'We Love Your Apathy' encroaching on the same territory elsewhere. It seems that Richardson was more concerned with ensuring the guitar was more prevalent on ‘Stoosh’, even if it really does not add a whole lot more to the equation.
First single 'All I Want' is the attempt to remake Paranoid's standout 'I Can Dream' and while it does have a good rock melody about it, it falls short due to a relative lack of depth, less sing-along factor and Skin's want for extravagance. The balance is achieved better with track 6 'Twisted (Everyday Hurts)' which was indeed the 2nd release from this album. 3rd single 'Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)' is also superior due to its melody combining well with the lyrical exploration of a past relationship's current unknown life.
Surprisingly though, this album excels at something you wouldn't even think the band capable of pulling off; Ballads. Two particularly stand out and it is a genuine shock to see Skin control her vocals so well to make these both so emotional and involving. The 6 minute atmospheric track 4 'Infidelity (Only You)' works extremely well in combination with track 8 'Brazen (Weep)' which was released as the 4th single. Both cuts are effectively strings-assisted yet stand out on their own well enough.
The final 3 tracks of the album are all experimental to a certain extent and do add variety if not genuine quality. The strangely effective 2 minute acoustic ballad 'Pickin On Me' concerns a reasoning for schoolyard bullying, while the bass-driven satirical closer 'Glorious Pop Song' firmly has its tongue placed in its cheek. The song title combines with pop harmonies and some uncharacteristic "na na na nas" to help highlight the repetitively melodic chorus of "You're Still A F**ker"! It is a gimmicky track, but actually works rather well as a smile-inducing finale. It is all a huge shame that the awful 'Milk Is My Sugar' is placed in between these 2 songs and the less said about this penultimate track, the better.
For various reasons, British bands in general seem to have a difficult time replicating the success of a debut album with their follow-up. While Skunk Anansie can now be placed in the same grouping as 'Stoosh' does not improve on the quality of 'Paranoid & Sunburnt', the band does showcase sufficient maturation as well as further talent and potential. Unfortunately, this effort seems a bit rushed (the albums were released only a year apart) and inconsistent with the lack of memorable tunes and the absence of a genuine quality standout hurting it.
Recommended Tracks: Twisted (Everyday Hurts), Brazen (Weep) & Infidelity (Only You).