Stereo Review (January '89)
(From the Best Recordings Of The Month section)
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The tenth album by Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Peep Show", is a fascinating plunge into the subconscious. It is one of the rare instances in recent memory where the considerable ego that's involved in making music--the flashy, extroverted announcement of self that is the bottom-line motive of rock-and-roll--has been silenced to allow a different sort of voice to emerge. Dream-like, hypnotic, and carnivalesque, "Peep Show" brims with nonlinear logic, compulsive rhythms, and icy, crystalline textures. Not since the days of the Doors and the Velvet Underground has a band delved so deeply into the universal mind and released so much psychic energy on a record.
The album opens with Peek-a-Boo, a fascinating collage of sound that incorporates a backward percussion track. Siouxsie Sioux's incantatory voice bounces from channel to channel as she describes a back-street peep show (hence the album's title) and mocks the voyeuristic impulse of those in attendance. A faint splash of reggae opens The Killing Jar, then the music dissolves into a trancelike drone in the style of Brian Eno or the Velvet Underground. Scarecrow has a Middle-Eastern feel, and Carousel is a whirling, surrealistic hall of mirrors set to a calliope's mad melody. The first side rushes to a climax in Burn-Up, with cello and drums simulating a train's mounting momentum while Siouxsie breathlessly limns a scene of ecological holocaust running rampant across the earth.
Overall, the second side is more abstract and ethereal, culminating in an eloquent expression of love (The Last Beat of My Heart) and the barest utterance of hope amid the ruins (Rhapsody). Dispensing with formal modes of thought and expression, the ten songs in "Peep Show" consist of interlocking jigsaw-puzzle part that have a logic all their own. In this utterly unconventional and thoroughly intoxicating album, an unlikely band of post-punk survivors has managed a transcendent feat: They are not playing music, the music is playing them.