Billboard (1.7.95)

Sprague, David
Siouxsie Sioux trades gloom for 'Rapture.'

COPYRIGHT BPI Communications 1995

Geffen Set Is Band's First In More Than 3 Years

NEW YORK--While her icy voice and forbidding presence have served as inspiration for the erection of myriad Gothic shrines, Siouxsie Sioux has managed to shake off gloom-rock's shackles quite effectively.  On "The Rapture," the first Siouxsie & the Banshees album in more than three years--due for a Feb.  14 release on Geffen--she and her cohorts blend rock, dance, and world music with tantalizing alacrity.

"Although the word is desperately overused, I'd say I'm most pleased with how organic this album sounds," says Sioux.  "Our last album [the Steven Hague-produced 'Superstition'] was all computers and technology and, I'm afraid, not very much of us.  It made us feel a bit like we hadn't made an album at all."

After taking a sabbatical punctuated by the 1992 release of the single "Face To Face" from the "Batman Returns" soundtrack, the quintet returned to recording, bent on a back-to-basics approach.

Initial "Rapture" sessions--which yielded seven of the album's dozen songs, including the 11-minute title track--were undertaken without the input of a producer, largely at the home studio maintained by Sioux and longtime companion/Banshees drummer Budgie.  But after reaching a creative impasse, the band enlisted Velvet Underground pioneer John Cale to finish the project.  Cale helped pen the Velvet Underground classic "All Tomorrow's Parties," a version of which will appear as a B-side on a forthcoming Banshees single.

"We realized we needed someone to come in, take the grand overview, and steer us towards a conclusion," says bassist Steven Severin.  "We were approached [by the label] with a list of 20 producers that were basically the producers of the top 20 albums of the moment.  It was a very frustrating few months."

"It was more like having an accomplice than a 'producer,'" says Sioux. "He wasn't set on putting his mark on the band: I think that most people wouldn't even be able to guess which tracks [he] did."

The Banshees have certainly carved out a comfortable niche over the course of 11 starkly diverse albums.  And while Geffen is concentrating its efforts on that 100,000-plus fan base, targeting friendly retail accounts and alternative press outlets, the label is also committed to broadening that demographic.

"As always, alternative radio and MTV will be early targets," says Mark Kates, Geffen A&R exec.  "Most of the key commercial alternative stations have had hits with the band in the past, and with that in mind we served them with a sampler of past hits."

That four-song sampler was timed to coincide with the December release of the album's first single, "O Baby," a swirling track (accompanied by an offbeat video that depicts the all-American phenomenon of infant beauty contests) with multiformat appeal.

"We feel that the album and [single] have relevance to Triple A and VH1," Kates says.  "The expectations are already high, as the single is already [receiving play on BBC's] Radio One."

The Banshees' cult audience began congregating in America not long after the release of the band's 1978 debut, "The Scream," subsisting on live appearances and imports until the 1984 release of "Hyaena." That album--one of three to feature Cure leader Robert Smith on guitar--spawned the Banshees' first U.S.  radio hit (a cover of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence").  At the same time, the band's early albums--which still sell consistently--were given their initial stateside releases.

"In America, we're perceived as a much newer band," Sioux muses.  "In Europe and England, we have a lot more reputation to deal with. Nevertheless, we always approach each album as if it existed in a vacuum--as if it were the first and last thing we'll ever do.  We've never been the sort of people who pay any attention to what goes on around us.  If we were, we'd probably end up smacking around more people than we allegedly do."

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