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Skunk Anansie: Black Traffic

Skin and co reap dividends on their first self-released album.

After a hiatus that saw singer Skin embark on a solo career while her colleagues variously undertook session work, tuition and a prolonged stint on the Feeder drum stool, Skunk Anansie emerged sounding reinvigorated on 2010’s Wonderlustre.

This fifth album builds on the confidence its predecessor engendered, moving the band (four original members and explosive chemistry all present and correct) toward shooting-at-the-stars epics. It’s an easy fit – the remarkable Skin was always a vocalist capable of singing out of her, well, skin, so the skyscraping ambition of these tunes is second nature.

The forcefulness is empowering on the unforgiving Sad Sad Sad – a stuttering beat, mewling harmonies, pulverising drive and Skin’s curdled bellow producing a vintage conflagration. The band’s martial attack finds phosphorescent focus in I Believed In You, a reminder of Skin’s ability to deliver an irrefutable kiss-off with lines such as ‘Let your blood flow freely so your voice can choke’ finding the bullseye.

The lady’s scale-soaring range and defiant spirit recall a metal-enhanced Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox. The warm and languorous I Hope You Get To Meet Your Hero, awash with cascading synthesised strings and growling bass, and the mesmerising finale Diving Down provide further highlights. Black Traffic, pretty terrific.

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.