The Skeletal Family were part of the Goth sub-culture that sprang up in the 1980s but they were never really in the movement’s first division like The Sisters of Mercy or The Mission.
But their unique selling point was they had a female singer Anne-Marie Hurst and it is her powerful vocals, with more than a hint of Siouxsie Sioux, that gives this 5CD box set its edge. That’s mainly because many of the songs lack the killer riff that a Gary Marx or a Billy Duffy might have supplied.
In truth Stan Greenwood’s guitar all too often just buzzes away to little purpose on their first album while Anna-Marie bellows her angsty lyrics over the top. But you can see why this Keighley based four piece were labelled as Goths with So Sure still a top drawer track, and the 12 version, complete with horns is included here.
In fairness by their second and final album on Red Rhino they have got more meat into the sound as Greenwood finds a bit more focus – although quite why they chose to include a truly pointless cover of the Batman theme is beyond me. Even worse is an utterly awful stab at Stand By me which comfortably makes the top 10 worst cover versions of all time. This abomination wouldn’t have made the final in a pub karaoke competition. Promised Land, This Time and Don’t be Denied hint at greater glories, but by then Anna-Marie had decided to leave forming Goth supergroup with former Sisters guitarist Marx.
Oddly enough John Peel was a Skeletals fan and their two sessions for him are better than the recorded versions suggesting different producers might have helped their cause.
Disc four features two concerts and the first has Anna-Marie on great form, but is marred by some boring pillock talking all the way through their strong set. Nothing changes does it? Katrina Philips takes over vocal duties for the second live set including an awesome – if surreal – cover of Knocking On Heaven’s Door, featuring the Sisters’ Andrew Eldritch and Wayne Hussey from The Mission. It’s a Goth We Are The World.
If you are a Skeletal Family fan then this exhaustive retrospective is the mother lode as it pretty much features everything they ever recorded, and as usual with Cherry Red this is a superior compilation, both in thought and packaging. For the rest of us it is an interesting curio of a band that on their day were pretty good, but never quite realised their potential.