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POP MUSIC REVIEW : A Sharp Edge to Music and Message of Skunk Anansie

November 30, 1995|RICHARD CROMELIN

The job of guitarist for the English band Skunk Anansie has its perils and its pleasures. During its show at the Dragonfly on Tuesday, he had his shaved head decorated with lipstick from the mouth of the lead singer, was briefly strangled by her microphone cord and later got to touch tongues with her.

His name is Ace and hers is Skin, and she figures to be an inescapable presence from here on in a rock world that's been predisposed by Alanis Morissette's success to embrace a blend of enraged but pop-friendly singing with forceful, hard-rocking music.

Skunk Anansie comes at it with more of a punk attitude and political slant, centering its music on such issues as religious hypocrisy and racism. Even its accounts of stormy romances are touched by currents of racial and gender tension.

Skin is an elfin black woman with bugging eyes and a shaved head that provides a canvas for such illustrative symbols as the white cross she displayed Tuesday. Aggressively charismatic, she fronted the three instrumentalists' volcanic metal, punk and pop riffing with a voice that ranged from teasing coo to full-force rant.

There's nothing tentative or retiring about this band. It acts as if it belongs, and Skin is already addressing the pitfalls of fame. "Build me up and strike me down, please," she sang Tuesday. "It takes blood and guts to be this cool, but I'm still just a cliche."

Don't believe it.

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