If the name Skinny Puppy doesn't ring any bells for you then you need to wake up and smell the cybercoffee. Whilst pioneering leather pants and heavy boots for over thirty years, Skinny Puppy have laid the way for generations of musicians of an industrial inclination, yet they refuse to fossilise themselves.
Opting to evolve and recontextualise as a voice usually comes in a few different forms, such as a turn in genre or (in this case) taking on a more 'mature' or political route. 'Weapon' is a conceptual album in that it explores the ideas of, well, weapons - and if it is the person behind the gun that is the true killer? It seems almost too perfectly timed that as America tackles a gun-law reformation and its people cry out for tighter restrictions on weaponry, one of Canada's musical veteran acts decides to step up and speak out.
Booting up like an old-school Atari, 'wornin' starts the record off with fuzzy arpeggiated arcade synths and crushed beats that we often hear these days from arcade-scream duo Crystal Castles. Straight up next is arguably the best (or one of the best) tracks on the record: 'illisiT'. Whilst the track name might be unnecessarily punctuated, the music is truly driving and desperate for that dancefloor from The Matrix. The song repeats in various mutations "This is a criminal age" while industrial beeps and gears mechanise in the background.
Most of the album is dance-floor friendly, if by dancefloor you mean a dark room with lots of blacklight around, though it's not something you should expect to hear on Radio 1 any time soon (unfortunately).
'saLvo' and 'gLowbeL' are two more strangely punctuated groovy tracks with interesting repetitions, such as "screw it!" in 'saLvo', but it's the Vincent Price-inspired ending that's truly enjoyable to listen. 'gLowbeL' is more downtempo and giltchy, but follows an almost identical vocal delivery to every song prior (and most to follow). The song, much like the first, has a distinct Street-Fighter vibe to it, as does a lot of the album, which is particularly good fun for those who did spend their earlier days playing their SNES and, well, listening to Skinny Puppy.
There are moments on the record where Skinny Puppy sound much more like their 90's self and peers. Musically, we find ourselves very much in Nine Inch Nails territory with 'solvent', and the album's brilliant closer 'terminal' has a very similiar taste to Gary Numan's more current work [so much so in fact that I had to check the liner notes].
It's worth mentioning at this point that Skinny Puppy have always ground out their own particular blend of electronic industrial pop and while there are similarities to others here and there throughout 'Weapon' , we're still very much hearing that same band from 30 years ago. If anything, you could argue that the unit has continued trying to refine its sound during their modernising, but then again their sound was always going to fit better in a world where technology is more of a major player than it was in the 80's and 90's.
Other noteworthy moments on the record include 'paragUn' which must have been stolen by Marilyn Manson on 'The Golden Age of Grotesque' (though that was always a Skinny Puppy ripoff album anyway) and ‘plastiCage’, which not only made me want to dance but forced me to do the robot in the middle of the kitchen. 'survivalisto' is unique for its acid house influences and 'tsudanama' begs for some electric guitar but unfortunately never delivers.
All in all, 'Weapon' is a welcome return with some powerful and gripping moments. Not always as tense and direct on the mark of the subject matter, but never dull and always engaging. Moving from brooding glitchy moments, hissing and fizzing to driving beats swelling in deep, dark space Skinny Puppy assert that not only did they manage to stick around this long, but they learned a few tricks on the way.
Modern and fresh with a prominent nostalgia, musically familiar yet characteristically original. It can only be these long-standing champions of mutant buzz dance, the one and only Skinny Puppy.