Skin : Fleshwounds

Ex-Skunk Anansie screamer is focus-grouped into 'going mature' with help from Robbie Williams cohort

Let the bells ring out! Skin is back from the catwalks of the Western world with a ‘soulbearing’ debut solo album and it’s called – wait for it, Tap fans – ‘Fleshwounds’. Even her previous band – the preposterously testy Skunk Anansie – would, you’d wager, fall short of daftness of such magnitude.

But, we can hear you scream, what does it sound like? Well, we get Skunk-esque power ballads (‘As Long As That’s True’; ‘Listen To Yourself’), a brace of cringeworthy, scented-candles-in-the-bath gloop-fests (‘Don’t Let Me Down’; ‘The Trouble With Me’) and generally enough pitch-perfect emoting to keep self-help groups across West London in business for years. There are certainly enough perfectly sung vocal performances and theatrical flourishes here to keep those two strange tutors from Fame Academy purring ’til Whitsun. Which is the problem. Because despite an instantly recognisable voice, strong material and a bone structure so perfect you could base the remodeled Iraq on it, Skin comes over on ‘Fleshwounds’ as more than a little confused.

Having already chalked up a staggering four million album sales with an image as a raging, dome-headed cyber-Queen with Skunk, on ‘Fleshwounds’ Skin would now have us believe she is a vulnerable, grown-up torch singer ready to be loved by anyone even thinking of purchasing a coffee table. If you stare closely at the cd you can almost see holographic images of the board meetings where her management hatched the plan to re-position her in a marketplace no longer yearning to hear albums called, erm, ‘Post Orgasmic Chill’.

Clearly the lyrical mood – in two words, lost love – is sincere enough, but swamped as her words are in archaic song structures with just enough of Skunk Ananasie‘s bluster to appease the old fans, the overall effect rings strangely hollow. The arrival of grisly Guy Chambers on uber-ballad ‘Lost’ only increases the feeling that, however much the marketing men may plead their innocence, ‘Fleshwounds’ is less Skin‘s ‘Nebraska’ and more – they hope – her ‘I’ve Been Expecting You’. Which is a shame, considering Skin could out-sing everyone from Maddy to Christina even after six weeks in a hospital ward full of people sneezing in Hong Kong.

As it is, on ‘Fleshwounds’ Skin sounds too smart to be pop, but way too glossy to scrap it out in the big ballad pop heartlands with Pink.

Paul Moody