❉ Looking back on Siouxsie’s first and only solo album, released a decade ago today.
Mantaray is the first, and to date only, solo album by Siouxsie Sioux, fiercesome (sic) grande dame of 1970s punk pioneers Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The breakdown of both The Banshees in the mid 1990s, and The Creatures (a percussion-led project with Budgie, producing some of her best work) in the early part of the new millennium, was followed by the breakdown of her marriage to Budgie in August 2007. This was a difficult time for Siouxsie, as at that time she was also estranged with Banshee co-founder and friend, Steve Severin, following an argument. These days she is reconciled with Severin, and consequently Banshee fans were hopeful of a reform of the band, but with his own career writing and producing film scores, Severin has his creative hands full.
Siouxsie has by no means resting on her laurels either, producing niche, random pieces of music over the past few years, most notably and recently, Love Crime for an episode of Brian Reitzell’s Hannibal entitled The Wrath of the Lamb. The hauntingly beautiful song was perfect for Siouxsie’s unique vocal talent.
Mantaray was released in the UK on 10 September 2007 and this year marks its ten year anniversary. Siouxsie fans have been hoping for another full-length solo album since its release but sadly so far nothing has materialised. Public performances have been minimal since Mantaray; however, in 2013 we were treated to a Sioux-travaganza a few years ago when she was a guest of Yoko Ono’s at Meltdown Festival at London’s Royal Festival Hall, a venue which Sioux herself has favoured over the years, having recorded her concert film Dreamshow at the venue.
During the Meltdown show, Siouxsie delighted fans with a complete performance of one of my own favourite SATB albums, Kaleidoscope, and appeared alongside a showcase of fellow punk and new wave luminaries such as Patti Smith, Boy George and Iggy Pop.
Mantaray spawned three singles, to critical acclaim. The first single Into a Swan, released in 3 September 2007, was released a week before the album release and was a strong choice, which confidently led the Queen of Punk into the realms of becoming solo-artiste. The song captures a metamorphosis into a powerful yet gracious swan, a metaphor for regaining her own personal position, following a painful and public separation.
“I feel a force I’ve never felt before… I burst out… I’m transformed…into a swan”
On the strength of Into a Swan, the next single Here Comes That Day was quickly released on 29 October. A forcefully slinky number which snakes its way around the issue of infidelity and sweet retribution.
Crooning with all the vitriol she can get away with whilst verbally sticking the knife in, delivering the well-chosen lyrics “There’s a price to pay, for a life of insincerity”, whilst earnestly kicking her stilettos sky-high. We need no further clues to the subject of her contempt.
The non-single tracks on the album range from the tenderly beautiful Heaven and Alchemy and Sea of Tranquility in which she opens her heart to her failed marriage. These songs are a more rational and reasoned analysis of her former life, delivered with a heartfelt tinge of ruefulness.
The final single from Mantaray was released the following year on 10 March. About to Happen is a fierce fusion of glam rock with a punk rock sensibility. The song’s lyrics are an apocalyptic foretelling of an unknown event of cataclysmic proportions, superbly delivered with gusto and determination by the ultimate Ice Queen.
Mantaray reached number 39 in the UK album charts, and received positive acclaim from the British music press. The Times reported “her steely-toned vocals are as beguiling as ever”, which typified the praise for Siouxsie in general and her album in particular.
The album was a brave step into the unknown for Siouxsie for many reasons; a new band, a new record company, and a producer she’d never worked with before. She was truly stepping out into the abyss. However, new beginnings often yield unexpected results and none more so in Mantaray, which has truly proved to be her swansong.
Siouxsie turned sixty this year; however we, the fans, are still hopeful of another Siouxsie release. I’m positive she hadn’t slipped into retirement quietly. An exit with a Big Bang is more her style! Besides, she still continues to make scant public appearances so I personally am clinging into those vague possibilities.
❉ ‘Mantaray’ was released in the UK on 10 September 2007 and is available from Amazon in CD, MP3 and streaming formats.
❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist. Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in paperback and Kindle in 2016. Her third novel will be published in 2017.