The Daily News of Los Angeles (11.15.02)


Theo Douglas, Staff Writer

Like their counterparts in America, English punk bands were designed to burn out - not fade away. And the Sex Pistols, England's punk export with the most name recognition, did just that, disintegrating into drugs and disdain following an ill-fated tour of the American South.

Yet not all the Pistols' peers flamed out so spectacularly.

One group in particular, Siouxsie & the Banshees, has been on the scene just as long - singer Siouxsie was at the Pistols' first gig in 1976 - and only broke up six years ago to protest the Pistols' re-forming.

Now, much more quietly than the Pistols, the Banshees are back, their record catalog inherited by Universal Music Group, which released a best-of CD collection on Tuesday that does for various album tracks what the group's previous two singles collections did for their hits.

It features "Dizzy," a slow, melodic, previously unreleased track, and if you pop for the limited-edition double-CD (it's already on eBay), you get various 12-inch remixes that are long out of print on vinyl.

All have been digitally remastered, and like the band's recent Southern California shows are something of a gift to fans. The band's drummer, Budgie, a k a Pete Clark, says one reason they reunited was as a gesture to longtime supporters.

"We survived not because of luck, but because of sheer sticking to what we believed in. And that, maybe, is what people got from us and still do," Budgie says in a telephone interview days before the group's Hollywood Palladium show. "We get so many e-mails from people just saying thanks for being there when I needed you. You wouldn't believe what it feels like. It does mean a lot when you get it back."

The band's future is uncertain, but the Banshees may record a disc of new material, Budgie says. An autobiography of Budgie and Siouxsie (his wife, Susan Dallion, the band's singer) also is on track for next year.

"We've not had a time to sit down and talk about future recordings. I think the best thing to do is to finish things the way we started them," says Budgie. "The best thing we can do is just do what we're doing. And the wheels have started to turn."

Nocturnal creatures, the Banshees returned to the U.S. in April and played in daylight - an unusually bright setting - at the Coachella festival, then returned for two Southern California club dates after dark in August at the Palladium and the Galaxy Theater in Anaheim.

Both club shows were rapturously received; the Banshees' staying power seems to have transcended their early costume - kohl-black eye makeup, ratted hair, punk clothing - and their deep, swirling sound.

Now in their 40s, the band members have sunk below pop music's youth-seeking radar beam, but thanks to their crystal-clear musical and stylistic vision, they're legends in their own time. And fans frequently copy that look and style.

"I see them every time they come out here," remarked one woman, who flew down from Seattle to catch the Banshees' Palladium date and who has followed them up and down the West Coast on previous tour legs. The Palladium audience also included Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore, a big fan.

Not surprisingly, the Banshees have made fans across the United States.

"I wasn't really into Gothic stuff, but I think their style appealed to me, and they were a little theatrical. They were unlike anything I'd ever heard or seen," says New Jersey native Stacey Kelleher, a public relations representative for a coat manufacturer, whose fondness for the Banshees' poetic lyrics led her to earn an English degree in college.

"There's a lot of literary references in their music, and their lyrics are very poetic. I was a writer in high school and kept a journal, and that definitely appealed to me," says Kelleher, who quickly responded to an online search for folks who'd grown up on the Banshees. "I think they were real musicians. I think you have people now who derive from that era but aren't real musicians."

Record collectors agree that the Banshees' history and body of work are what will keep them relevant for years to come.

"Twenty years they've been around. People like them 'cause there are very few English bands from that period that are still doing it," says Fullerton record store owner Bill Evans of Black Hole Records, where the Banshees' catalog is a steady seller.

Siouxsie and Steven Severin formed the Banshees (he plays bass) and were later joined by ex-Slits drummer Budgie, who married Siouxsie in '92. The Banshees continue to go through guitarists like Spinal Tap goes through drummers - but so far, none have spontaneously combusted.

"They've never gone away. They're as current as any band with a female singer out now," says the unofficial Mayor of the Sunset Strip, longtime KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer.

"Siouxsie & the Banshees were the darlings of KROQ in the '80s and the early '90s, even the Creatures stuff too," Bingenheimer says, mentioning Siouxsie and Budgie's periodic side project. "She opened the door for a lot of people, a lot of female artists. It's a combination of the way she looks, and their music. The club people like them, the Goth people, the punk people and the rock people, too."

Contributed by Jerry Burch.

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