Review of Hyaena ('84)
Siouxsie and the Banshees Hyaena
by Roy Trakin
Once upon a time, they might've burned Siouxsie Sioux at the stake or thrown her in a lake to see if she'd float with rocks tied to her ankles. Today, she's signed to a recording contract with the hope that she'll be the most famous witch since mother-in-law Agnes Moorehead made Elizabeth Montgomery's husband Dick York so miserable in Bewitched.
What started as a joke back in the halcyon Britpunk daze of '76 has turned into a career, of sorts, with the band going on its seventh album and third U.S. record company. Of course, any group whose first drummer was Sid Vicious and debuted with a 20-minute version of the "Lord's Prayer" which even their own bio describes as "godawful" is alreety with this biased noise advocate, music unheard.
Thing is, back in their native U.K., spikey Siouxsie, sidekick bassist/co-founder Severin, on-loan guitarist Robert Smith and cult drummer Budgie are frequent chart residents, with a regular bevy of hook-laden noveltunes like the chop suey chimes of "Hong Kong Garden", the Hitchcockian suspense drone of "Staircase", the twisted Mideast anthem "Israel", the hypnotic, psychotic "Happy House" and the neo-acid folk-rock of "Christine". But you won't find the catchy minimalism of Siouxsie and the Banshees on U.S. radio, so Hyaena tries to adapt to the band's basic gloom und doom to the dictates of modern pop and rock, turning its existential angst into heavy metal/new wave rituals.
"Skating bullets on angel dust/in a dead sea of fluid mercury/baby piano cries," croons S.S. on chant #1, "Dazzle", and I can just picture the local PTA trying to make out the ink-stained lyric sheet. Oh, we've got trouble, right here in River City, and it ain't pool, bro'.
But Siouxsie's got more that the devil on her mind, and the music here begins to assume colors other than black. "We Hunger"'s stark African drums and anti-sexual heebie-jeebies are lightened considerably by Siouxsie's tongue-in-cheek reading, while Cure guitarist Robert Smith fans the flames with his call-and-response jangle. "Swimming Horses" evokes, of all people, Miss Linda Ronstadt, in her pre-prom-dress Stone Poneys California psychedelic pop period, and the song's highly graphic, darkly comic version of sexual reproduction reminds me of Woody Allen playing the hapless, doomed sperm in his Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex...But Were Afraid To Ask--which would make a marvelous title for a Banshees concept album, by the way. There's still more where those came from too, including a lovely, looney, drug-crazed version of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" (which may be even better than the group's old cover of "Helter Skelter"), and Siouxsie dishing it out to Grace Slick on the LSD raver, "Bring Me The Head Of The Preacher Man".
Give Siouxsie credit for learning long ago that yocks will get you farther than shocks. This is the kinda record you should laugh along with. After all, it's the punch line to a seven year old joke.