Uncut (November '05)
Reviews - Reissues & Compilations
'78's lacerating debut, now extended over two discs
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES
The Scream: The Deluxe Edition
KNOWING SIOUXSIE as Godmother Of Goth, it's easy to forget that the Banshees were originally regarded as exemplary post punk vanguardists. Laceratingly angular, The Scream reminds you what an inclement listen the group was at the start. Sure, there's a couple of tunes as catchy as "Hong Kong Garden", which appears twice here on the alternate-versions-crammed second disc of BBC session and demos. "Mirage" is a cousin to "Public Image", while the buzzsaw chord-drive of "Nicotine Stain" faintly resembles The Undertones, of all people.
But one's first and lasting impression of The Scream is shaped by the album being bookended by its least conventional tunes. Glinting and fractured, opener "Pure" is an instrumental in the sense that Siouxsie's voice is just an abstract, sculpted texture swooping across the stereo-field. Final track "Switch" is closer to a song. but structurally as unorthodox as Roxy Music's "It There Is Something".
Glam's an obvious reference point for the Banshees, but The Scream also draws from the moment when psychedelia turned dark. "Helter Skelter" is covered, surely as much for the Manson connection as for Beatles love. Guitarist John McKay's flange resembles a Cold Wave update of 1967 style phasing, and the stridency of Siouxsie's singing channels Grace Slick. In songs like the autism-inspired "Jigsaw Feeling", there's even a vibe of mental disintegration that recalls trippy Jefferson Airplane tunes like "Two Heads". Another crack up song, "Suburban Relapse", always makes me think of the middle aged housewife in every neighbourhood with badly applied make-up and a scary lost look in her eyes. Siouxsie's suspicion not just of domesticity but of that other female cage, the body, comes through in the fear-of-flesh anthem "Metal Postcard", whose exaltation of the inorganic and indestructible ('Metal is tough, metal will sheen, metal will rule in my master-scheme") seems at odds with the song's inspiration, the anti-fascist collage artist John Heartfield.
The Scream is another Banshees altogether from the lush seductions of Kaleidoscope and Dreamhouse. McKay and drummer Kenny Morris quit the group on the eve of the band's first headlining tour. And their replacements - John McGeoch and Budgie - were far more musically proficient. Yet The Scream, along with early singles such as "The Staircase (Mystery)" and the best bits of next album Join Hands, does momentarily make you wonder about the alternate universe path the original Banshees might have pursued if they'd stayed together and stayed monochrome'n'minimal. SIMON REYNOLDS
UNCUT: What was the mood in the Banshees camp during The Scream's recording?
SIOUXSIE: We'd toured a lot with that material and there was a lot of animosity and aggro at those gigs. That tension found its way onto the record. It was recorded in two weeks flat. We felt supremely confident but, at the same time, there was a feeling of oblivion in the air. Looking back, it was like we were walking along the edge of a cliff without knowing we were doing so.
How well does it stand up for you 27 years on?
It sounds completely fresh to me. There's nothing embarrassing on it. There's nothing I'd change about it. It's beyond fashion, darling.
And have you forgiven John McKay and Kenny Morris yet?
My feelings towards those two went beyond hate some time ago. If they walked in now. I'd ask them how they are and maybe buy them a drink. There wouldn't be any punches thrown. They did us a big favour in leaving. It gave the Banshees a new lease of life.
INTERVIEW: JON WILDE
Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.