"She who must be obeyed… or at least, listened to!" - The new Stiltskin album: She, reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
I must admit that I was somewhat surprised when I heard that Ray had effectively resurrected Stiltskin. My impressions from some of his previous remarks on the subject of the band were that it was a part of his career which he did not necessarily find enjoyable. To be honest, Stiltskin were never my favourite cup of tea either. Grunge rock never hit the spot at TWR HQ I'm afraid. Whatever his reasons, Stiltskin are back and very much cast in Ray's own mould as we shall see….
The album opens in typically hard rocking fashion with Fly High which sets the album's credentials out from the start. Angry, angsty and typical of Ray's songwriting and destined to become a favourite in the forthcoming live set I am sure. Taking Time certainly has echoes of previous Stiltskin favourite; Inside with its laid back but insistent bass rhythm. Ray's skills as a lyricist are shining here, I love the line …"Your words are so colourful/I'm black and blue" a couplet which conjures up potentially so many different images - place your own interpretation on them!
The album's title track: She opens with what sounds like the soundtrack from a low budget horror film and I wonder if perhaps Ray had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he wrote it. Another rhythm driven and irresistibly catchy number which might not be so bad a choice as a potential single. A moment of lighter relief follows with Lemon Yellow Sun. I have always admired Ray's acoustic playing and this gets the track off in fine form before the band rock out on a tasteful performance - shades of so many other rock bands here but all wrapped up in a uniquely Ray Wilson style.
Back to hard driving rock with Wake Up Your Mind which certainly does that and so does Sick And Tired Constantly Reminded opens up with a rarity; acoustic piano and guitar and is a slow laid back smokey Blues style performance which suits Ray's vocals to perfection.
Show Me The Way is another understated track which has echoes of Coldplay in it but none the worse for that. Fame is the album's rock heart but is a track which certainly won't win Ray any fans on the likes of X Factor. A savage indictment of the manufactured "pop" which saturates the music scene these days. I can't help wondering however, if this is yet another comment on the situation he found himself in with Genesis - either way a hard hitting song and probably my favourite on the album.
Some Of All My Fears continues the hard rocking edge of the album but with a definitely Proggier slant to it. Another angry song - I don't think Ray does "happy" songs really and lets be honest; all the best rock songs ARE miserable in content anyway!
Summer Days opens with a definitely Seventies sound both on keyboard and guitar before some superb hard rocking guitar and synthesiser takes the song to another level. A stylish and classic slice of high octane rock which leads us into the album's closer: Better Luck Next Time which drives home the hard rock credentials of the band.
If you were a fan of the original Stiltskin, then this album will certainly
be right up your street. There is no doubt that the band are musically tight
and Ray's performance is as strong and confident as you would expect. Musically,
however for me I found this project to be extremely dated. The Grunge Rock movement
had its (thankfully brief) day in the mid 1990's and this album is rooted firmly
in the same mould - I didn't enjoy it then and I can’t really say that
I enjoyed the experience second time around either - but hey, you can't win