The last time we heard from icon Siouxsie Sioux was in 2002, when her band The Creatures released Hai!, a drums and percussion-lead beast that was similar in temperament to that band’s previous output. The Creatures essentially were Siouxsie and her husband, Budgie, who also played drums for the Banshees from 1980 until the group’s demise in 1996. Sadly, Siouxsie and Budgie have recently parted ways after approximately twenty-seven years of both professional and personal relationships. Their separation, however, has driven Sioux to record her first solo album, Mantaray, which most recalls The Creatures’ excellent 1999 release, Anima Animus.
Clearly, she feels excited about striking out on her own for the first time in decades. “Into a Swan” opens the album with a digital, gritty guitar track, as she confidently sings the lines: “I’m on the verge of an awakening/A new kind of strength for me.” The drums soon kick in and the song assumes an anthemic quality that manages to avoid bombast, which strengthens this piece as the track evolves. “I feel a force I’ve never felt before/I don’t want to fight it anymore,” she declares in the song’s chorus. There are also grimy analog keyboards that add depth to the mix, complementing Siouxsie’s unmistakable voice.
“Here Comes That Day” is an interesting single; with a cinematic element to the song, featuring an almost theatrical orchestration, Siouxie again walks a line that could border on dramatic, yet she pulls it off. “Loveless” is a particularly strong track. It opens with an atmospheric synth string arrangement before morphing into a pulsing and abrasive rock piece. There are also some terrific percussive elements, such as hammer dulcimer and xylophone. It sounds a little bit like something off of The Sisters of Mercy’s Vision Thing, but is not as aggressive. “What am I gonna to do/How do I face the truth/Loveless/Loveless,” she sings. Her divorce from Budgie could very well be the impetus behind those lyrics.
The melancholy ballads on the album are bare and absolutely moving, and could be the best songs on Mantaray. These are also the songs that musically explore new territories for her. “If It Doesn’t Kill You” is upright piano-based and punctuated with syncopated sampling and rhythmic keyboard parts as well. Her vocals sound 3:00 am lonely as she almost croons the lyrics.
The record’s last track, “Heaven and Alchemy,” is a gorgeous piano composition. “I’m in love with the idea of you in rush reality,” is the line that opens the song. Once again, Siouxsie sounds enticingly vulnerable, which is something that did not manifest itself much with either the Banshees or The Creatures. It provides a satisfying end to Mantaray, a record that definitely explores a new musical frontier for Siouxsie, while showcasing her vocal talents, which continue to impress.
This release includes a diverse group of ten songs. It resembles the work of The Creatures because the percussive element is strong and, other than the presence of her unique voice, does not resemble her work with the Banshees much, if at all. The production is crisp and modern, almost sounding a bit like Butch Vig’s Garbage at times. Fans of all things Siouxsie will find Mantaray to be a welcome edition to their collections and new listeners will more than likely use this release as an introduction to delve into the wonderfully eclectic world of Siouxsie Sioux.