September 20, 2021

Album Of The Week: The 14th Anniversary of ‘Mantaray’ by Siouxsie Sioux

Finally, after 11 Siouxsie And The Banshees albums and four Creatures albums, the inspirational and influential lead singer of both bands – Siouxsie Sioux, released her first solo album, Mantaray, on September 10th 2007. Mantaray, although received well by critics and fans alike remains Siouxsie’s one and only full length solo record to date. The ten track album saw Siouxsie work with a variety of musicians and collaborators as she brought a long held dream to life. Taking impetus and encouragement from the success of her 2004 solo tour that culminated in a live performance with a 16 piece orchestra, and ultimately a DVD titled Dreamshow, Siouxsie used a wide variety of styles but produced a very cohesive and thoroughly entertaining album.

Mantaray was probably more pop than Banshee purists had hoped for but it’s blend of theatrical and cinematic soundsacpes coupled with Siouxsie’s unmistakable vocals was an irresistible combination. The lead single, and opening track from the album – Into A Swan, released one week ahead of Mantaray, was the perfect introduction to Siouxsie’s solo album. The transformative track signaled Siouxsie’s intentions and served in some ways to document the changes in her life. Recently divorced from husband and band mate Budgie, moving on from her past and embracing a new era in her life, Siouxsie’s swan was her re-awakening as a self-assured solo artist. The semi-industrial opening bars quickly give way to Siouxsie’s extraordinary voice and some supercharged guitar riffs. The accompanying, sometimes elaborate, percussion and deft arrangement make for a great introductory track to the album as Siouxsie sings – “I feel a force I’ve never felt before, I don’t want to fight it anymore, Feelings so strong can’t be ignored, I burst out, I’m transformed.”

The second single lifted from the album, Here Comes That Day – released a month after Mantaray had landed, was an altogether different song entirely. The dramatic and arresting theatrics of Here Comes That Day were bold and brassy with a lavish stage musical bent. The big horns and bold vocal delivery captured an empowered performance that suited Siouxsie Sioux to a tee. It’s a song that makes you sit up and listen, a song that makes you walk tall and sing out loud and a song with a brilliant strut.

The third song released as a single from Mantaray was it’s second track – About To Happen. The driving rhythm of this song, coupled with some sublime keyboard sequences and exquisite revolving guitar riffs make for one hell of a song. Siouxsie’s vocals are some of the best that she has ever delivered on a song that ranks as one her most immediate and commercial. About To Happen is power-pop at it’s very best; hook laden, compelling and ultimately enjoyable.

Loveless sees Siouxsie return to Hyaena era Banshees with some Creatures percussive treatments thrown in for good measure. If It Doesn’t Kill You is darker and more reflective, building as it goes but also highlighting Siouxsie’s soulful vocals whereas the only track credited to Siouxsie herself, One Mile Below mixes both elements to give up an anthemic track that superbly layers tribal beats in a percussive tour-de-force. Sea Of Tranquility, one of the most considered tracks of the ten, uses a Bossa Nova beat and a piano score as Siouxsie repeatedly sings – “There are more stars in the sky, than grains of sand”. The expressive and emotive performance that Siouxsie manages to deliver can often be easily over looked with so much going on but it’s what helps lift this song, and this album.

The arrangements, production and engineering on Mantaray cannot be faulted and the compositions are, to a song, all compelling and engaging in all manner of ways but it is Siouxsie Sioux’s extraordinary vocals that make Mantaray more than just a great album.

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