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This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Siouxsie and the Banshees. September 13, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Siouxsie and the Banshees, pop, goth, rock, new wave, more than a hint of dance, punk. All of those and more. Ploughing a deeply individual musical path from the late 1970s and as a solo artist effectively to the present day. Their/her roots firmly in punk but somehow managing to move on a very clear trajectory away from that while never in any way disowning that history.

And with that so much to choose from in that career. The early singles – for Siouxsie was very much a chart group? They’re great raw artefacts from post-punk, though the lyrics are on occasion… troubling. Later material which saw her move in what she might term pop, but few of the rest of us would? Fascinating and compelling in their own way.

But for my money the years 1983 through to 1986 were a particular high point. Here her/their sound was consolidated, moving beyond the simplicity and vital rigour of the early material into a more experimental, thoughtful area. A Kiss in The Dreamhouse from 1982 clearly reflects that dynamic, but Hyaena and Tinderbox, released in 1984 and 1986 respectively, are for me the quintessential Siouxsie releases. There the blend is just right, great singles such as ‘Dear Prudence’ and ‘Cities in Dust’ matched by equally strong album tracks such as ‘Belladonna’ (with a fabulous skittering percussion and almost early New Order bassline and oddly joyous chiming chorus) ‘Cannons’ and ’92 Degrees’ (note the sample taken from 50s SF film ‘It Came from Outer Space’ and it’s proto-Fields of the Nephilim guitars). And surely covering ‘Dear Prudence’ was a massive statement of intent (just to be absolutely clear, the single wasn’t on the vinyl version of Hyaena, but was added later in a CD age – to good effect).

Actually I tend to view these albums, albeit two years apart as being of a piece. This isn’t to say they’re identical, Hyaena is denser, more layered, more tricky – less immediate and arguably the better of the two. By contrast Tinderbox is sparser, poppier, more airy (and yet on tracks like ‘The Sweetest Chill’ there’s a hint of Cocteau Twin’s or a seductive moodiness as on ‘Land’s End’) though I’ll happily skip past ‘This Unrest’ any day. And yet there’s a definable aesthetic thread, something that nods to Goth while not being subsumed by it. I’ve often thought that they’d make a great double album with a little judicious editing, and that on the Tinderbox side.

Throughout there’s that unique pop element that Siouxsie (and the Cure, and a number of other post-punk groups) managed to make much their own transiting from that aforementioned stark rigour of their origins into something decidedly different while somehow retaining its essence. With Robert Smith it was, perhaps, the bleakness of vision even as the melodies spun and circled in ever more cheerful ways, for Siouxsie it was in that remarkable voice, stentorian at times – to the point that it sometimes wanders away from the melody entirely, at other times whisper soft. But always her voice.

It’s interesting that Smith’s name comes up, because he was in effect a member of the Banshees for Hyaena, and despite his – ahem – primary role as guitarist with them his influence is evident in the profusion of keyboards that fill in the background of this quite guitar oriented album – check out ‘Dazzle’, surely one of their greatest songs. But it is to do a disservice to Siouxsie and the rest of the group, Budgie on drums, Steve Severin on bass and John Valentine on guitars on Tinderbox, to see this as simply an artefact of his personality. His input may deepen the sound but no more so than the direction Siouxsie was taking it in anyway. He had long left by the time Tinderbox emerged and perhaps that explains the tauter sound. Worth noting that Steve Severin had begun to dabble in electronics in addition to bass on the latter album, something that can be heard in quite a number of tracks as a backing element.

I’ve already mentioned other projects of hers, and it’s remarkable to think of how she has so seemingly easily sustained a career that has spanned five, count ‘em, five decades.

Dazzle (video, with ad before it)

Dazzle (no video and no ad).

Blow the House Down

Belladonnna

Bring Me the Head of the Preacher Man

Dear Prudence

Cities in Dust

92 Degrees

Cannons

The Sweetest Chill

Land’s End

Comments»

1. Paul Wilson - September 16, 2014

Saw them a few times in the early days they were always different and they had an edge to them, the audience who followed them from croydon were years ahead fashion wise they were too cool to pogo and used to do a kind of dance that i can only say was a indian war dance. First time i saw nose studs piercings Etc. That first album was great. Did Captain Scarlett ever end up on a record?

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