"I didn't notice, When you strengthened like a vice, That you were trembling, And burned beneath the ice."
Skunk Anansie were one of those acts in the 90s that you couldn’t help but be aware of, particularly around the time of their second album, Stoosh. A punkish hard rocking quartet, they stood significantly apart from the various cookie-cutter Britpop acts of the era, with an utterly different attitude and a significantly different sound. Also, the fact that they were fronted by one of few performers of the era to possess a genuinely effortless star quality didn’t hurt either.
Skin remains to this day a woman with a striking appearance and a voice that can channel a rare blend of vulnerability, soulfulness and fury. That’s not to say her bandmates were slouches, because Stoosh is all the evidence you need that they certainly weren’t, but one of the few things that Skunk Anansie did have with their female fronted contemporaries, was that the blokes tended to blend into the background somewhat, with the difference being that Skin didn’t have to be cynically marketed as a sex symbol in an attempt to shift units. Her voice alone did that.
Over two decades since its release, Stoosh remains a narky, aggressive and generally angry album. Cass, Ace and Mark (how come he didn’t get a vaguely ridiculous nickname?) get chance to demonstrate that they can do subtle, but they sound most at home when the volume gets cranked up and they are allowed to match their front woman’s aggression. Skin for her part sounds like a woman possessed, yet utterly dripping with conviction. Regardless of whether you liked Skunk Anansie at their commercial peak, you can’t argue that Skin came across as one of the most genuine performers of the era. Be it “Yes It’s Fucking Political”, “She’s My Heroine” or “Pickin’ on Me”, she can provide whatever the song needs vocally and you just don’t doubt the fact that she means every word she is singing.
While Stoosh can occasionally devolve into the sound of a hissy fit, Skunk Anansie never sound anything less than full-blooded or committed to the material. It’s an aggressive hard rock album, released at a time when very few British acts were releasing aggressive rock albums, or at least not without a huge side-order of irony. Stoosh is played with an utterly straight, uncompromising bat, and if nothing else, you have to give Skunk Anansie credit for that.