This is a pop album. Pop with an onomatopoeic =*POP*=! An effervescent burst of unembarrassed noise. It is shiny and hollow, like the snap from a burst bubble, and as plastic and satisfying as a Pop-Its toy.
This is Skunk Anansie on cheap ecstasy in a 90s nightclub on New Year’s Eve.
There’s not much to latch onto with ‘Love You Wrong’ – the kind of song you’ve already forgotten while it’s still playing – and it’s tipsy, too, like the background noise of a Camden nightclub as you reach for your fourth Snakebite. Still, ‘Bystander’, a video single, is more promising: a bop; a body-wiggling headbanger with a chorus you’ll be humming for weeks.
‘Vertigo’ is produced by the guy behind Papa Roach and sounds like something off the Disney Channel. Skye “Sever” Sweetnam even looks like a degenerate Dove Cameron, all pastel hair and impossible pouts. It’s great, but as anticipated, ‘Bad News’ is the highlight here – an irresistible earworm that’s impossible to shift. Alice Cooper meets Clawfinger, with a scream-along chorus, the song is a delight.
The double-whammy of ‘No Surrender’ is the trailing suckerpunch, with killer riffs and aggressive drumming beneath its instantly memorable chorus. The producer also worked with Ozzy Osbourne, and it has that sort of classic, dirty sound – at odds with the Gwen Stefani-style follower ‘MIA’. The electronics have thus far twinkled in the background, but they’re at the fore of this bold R&B (dancefloor) filler, which even throws in a few heavy chugs to remind us we haven’t drifted into an Ariana gig by mistake.
Just to perplex us, ‘Cyclone’ starts off full on METAL (read that in a growl; throw horns), then swirls around in ska, buggers about for a bit, and slams back to a pop chorus that feels almost tacked on, but pleasingly so. You’d have to hear it more than twice to figure out what’s going on. You can skip the next song.
‘Overdrive’ charges along with the breathless earnestness of Madonna’s ‘Holiday’, as sweet and fizzy as sherbet dab. Impossibly, ‘Power and Control’ does it all over again and, to a lesser extent, with ‘This Dance is Doomed’. ‘Awakened’ is a suitable and palatable confection to close with.
Initiation is as much relentless riff factory as Disturbed’s The Sickness: an endless barrage of tunes you half-know on first hearing, as addictive and unnourishing as sugar. Easily the best I’ve heard this year, but ask me again in September.
Release Date: 07/05/2021
Record Label: Napalm Records
Standout tracks: Bad News, No Surrender, Overdrive
Suggested Further Listening: Skunk Anansie – Paranoid and Sunburnt (1995), Disturbed – The Sickness (2000), Clawfinger – Deaf Dumb Blind (1993)