(VOX May/Jun '95)
"In Goth We Trust"
by Steve Malins
(scale of 1 - 10)
Siouxsie Sioux made an immediate impact in a black cupless bra, suspenders and swastika armband when she took to the stage for the first time in 1976. The Banshees' transition over the next two years was remarkable as they developed from a musically primitive outfit, even by punk standards, into an arrogantly assured act who were already pioneering a harsh, angular post-punk sound by the time they released their debut album, "The Scream" (7), in 1978. This was largely due to the recruitment of guitarist John McKay, who shouldered the bulk of the songwriting, while Siouxsie and Steve inked the lyrics. Their fascination with Bowie, still in his Berlin period at the time, surfaced on the cold, minimal sound of 'Metal Postcard', which also attempted to lay to rest the band's early swastika imagery with a dedication to anti-Nazi propagandist John Heartfield.
A year later their follow-up, "Join Hands" (5) signaled their personnel trouble, resulting in the departure of McKay and drummer Kenny Morris shortly after its release. Despite memorable tracks such as 'Icon', 'Playground Twist' and 'Mother', a shortage of new material and a sense of claustrophobia left the album sounding half-formed. Ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch and drummer Budgie joined up for the erratic "Kaleidoscope" (6) in 1980. 'Christine', a song based on the schizophrenic Christine Sizemore, the heavily ironic 'Happy House' and the ethereal 'Desert Kisses' shone through.
Fortunately the new line-up cemented with "Ju Ju" (8) a year later. It's dense sound recalled some of the brittle minimalism of "The Scream" but the presence of McGeoch ensured a greater sophistication. Damaged mental states, superstition and taboo eroticism fueled the songs, with 'Monitor', 'Spellbound', 'Arabian Knights' and 'Night Shift' providing the backbone for future live sets. "A Kiss In The Dreamhouse" (8) redefined them further. McGeoch was already drifting out of the band, allowing the core trio to experiment with tape loops, orchestration and a whirling, fairground style. Siouxsie's love of sensual but dark lyricism is also given full vent of 'Slowdive' and 'Obsession'. With the expected departure of McGeoch, Robert Smith deputized for the second time (he briefly filled in after "Join Hands"), while Siouxsie, Severin, and Budgie experimented with their own projects, The Glove and The Creatures and released a live album, "Nocturne" (6), to combat the bootlegs.
Re-grouping for "Hyaena," (5), the band found themselves burnt out (or, in Smith's case, overworked, as The Cure began to enjoy mainstream success). They were once again without a guitarist until Clock DVA's John Carruthers was recruited for "Tinderbox" (7). The theme revolves around extreme climactic conditions, ranging from the Pompeii story of 'Cities In Dust' to '92 Degrees', the temperature at which murder statistics suddenly rise. They returned again on a patchy covers LP, "Through The Looking Glass" (5); a shake-up was needed and Carruthers left to be replaced by Specimen guitarist Jon Klein and multi-instrumentalist Martin McCarrick. The changes revitalized the band as they stretched their musical ambitions further with 1988's "Peepshow" (8). Lavishly produced, the familiar Banshees' shimmer was more evocative than ever before and Siouxsie's vocal performance on 'The Last Beat Of My Heart' is still her finest.
They called on the production talents of Stephen Hague (New Order, Pet Shop Boys) for their 1991 release, "Superstition" (7), which saw their music venturing on to the dancefloor for the first time since the Goth nights at the Batcave in the '80's. Their second greatest hits package, "Twice Upon A Time" (7) takes the story up to this year's album, "The Rapture."