After years of being frontwoman for Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Creatures, Siouxsie Sioux decided to try something a little different back in 2007 and lead her first solo album which was called MantaRay.
A single was released just prior to that, “Into A Swan”, the explosive opening song to the album. It’s an appropriately rocky, experimental start with heavy guitar riffs merged together with electronic screeches and, more surreally, bongos. It’s an overproduced track but in the best possible way: packed full of energy, memorable verses and a kick-ass chorus, it’s quite probably the best song on the album which is both a good thing as it gets things started with a bang but a bit of a shame because it means that MantaRay peaks about as early as possible.
“About To Happen” follows “Into A Swan” and, although it’s a fun track, it’s also much more upbeat, happy-go-lucky and poppy, which is relatively unusual for Siouxsie but which actually works really well here. It’s a nice surprise. A much “Siouxsier” song comes next, “Here Comes That Day”, a song which starts off like a James Bond-style soul anthem you’d expect from the likes of Tina Turner. It’s a slower, sexier, more mysterious track which shows even more versatility as Siouxsie takes on one of the many musical styles she tackles throughout the album.
Strangely, the album then takes a darker route and brings us a couple of somewhat sinister songs. “Loveless” is very Siouxsie, darker and more melodic, maybe with a little Muse thrown in. As for “If It Doesn’t Kill You”, it’s a slower paced, kinda grim yet poetic, heartfelt song and, although it’s not exactly the most upbeat track of the bunch, it’s still a very solid effort, even if it almost loses itself about halfway through.
Now, this is where MantaRay takes an odd turn…
The second half of the album is so concerned with showing versatility that it ends up being a little hit-and-miss in its experimental attempts. Case and point, “One Mile Below” and “Drone Zone”, two songs clearly there to give Siouxsie a little more room to try different things but which go abstract places, not always to the listener’s benefit. You could see Bjork take on “One Mile Below”, a weird, eclectic country-ish tune, and make it fit with her own style but it doesn’t quite gel here, unfortunately. “Drone Zone” goes even further off-course by essentially being an experimental jazz song. It really lacks a melody, which would have helped make the song somewhat memorable but, as it stands, it’s a confusing listen and a forgettable one.
Things thankfully perk up again with “Sea Of Tranquility”, a mellow track with a slow build-up but which develops into something a bit dancier. It’s a genuinely nice song. The album then ends with “They Follow You” and “Heaven & Alchemy”, the former eventually going off-track but bringing in a promising nostalgic vibe before that, the latter closing the album on a disappointingly somber but beautifully atmospheric note.
Siouxsie Sioux’s MantaRay should have enough good stuff in it to entertain fans of the iconic artist’s work but it might also alienate some as the album’s many experimentations don’t always pay off. That said, you can’t deny how fresh and modern the album feels and fault its creative ambition. You’ve got some cool songs in there and, overall, it’s a worthy solo effort.
That’s 3 Happy Goths out of 5 for this one but I’m sure The Mighty Sioux can beat that with her eyes closed.
Let’s hope we get another solo album some time soon.