Siouxsie and the Banshees The Scream 1978, Polydor
Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)
It’s only 1978 and we already have a post-punk band to look at and Siouxsie and the Banshees are very different from the punk bands that were their contemporaries. Formed in 1976, and admittedly starting out on the punk scene, as they were inspired by the Sex Pistols, indeed at their first show, the 100 Club Punk Festival, Sid Vicious played drums. Despite some line-up changes, they quickly gained a solid reputation for being interesting on stage and well worth watching. At this time punk bands were being signed left, right and centre but it took the Banshees longer than most to sign to a major label because their style was so much more adventurous and experimental than everyone else, hence they are now considered to be the first proper post-punk band. It was also very unusual to see a female lead singer in the genre at the time.
The Scream was the Banshees’ debut, it reached number 12 in the chart and was praised by a number of critics for its unusual style. There was certainly nothing else quite like it around at the time. Even the cover image of a child in a swimming pool (because you can’t scream underwater) seems to have a lot more thought behind it than the other punk covers of the time.
Instrumental opener Pure starts off slow and chilled and then becomes sort of trippy and screamy, (wait, does it still count as an instrumental if someone’s screaming?) I was ready for more traditional punk which this certainly isn’t, but it does show you the shape of things to come. Jigsaw Feeling has more of a punk vibe in the vocal, but the guitar feels anthemic, it’s a ‘big’ sort of song. Overground has a much more delicate vocal and the guitar is urgent and along with the drums, almost gives the idea of a marching tune. Carcass is the most like a traditional punk track only slower and more measured. The Helter Skelter cover is nothing like The Beatles’ original, but I actually like it better for that. There’s lots of reverb and the vocal increases in urgency and speed as the song goes on, it feels a bit oppressive but in a good way. Mirage is a highlight, definitely one you can dance to, with a calmer vocal. Metal Postcard another obvious classic, with very strong guitars and a perfect drum beat. Switch, another anthemic one is quite haunting and atmospheric. Although all the tracks on this album are much slower and more deliberate than other punk albums, the lyrics are delivered just as aggressively. The band definitely achieved their goal of making cinematic type music. Despite the aggressive delivery, it’s melodious, the vocal and guitars are completely in sync, even if that sync comes across as jagged and weird on some of the songs.
The most important thing about this album and the band in general is that it showed that punk could evolve and change while remaining relevant. 40 years later, it still feels fresh and surprising.
The Banshees’ influence has been wide and long. They may never have truly set the chart alight, but they greatly influenced goth rock and in terms of specific groups, they influenced The Smiths, U2, Radiohead, Joy Division, The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, Jane’s Addiction, Primal Scream, Suede, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Garbage, Tricky and Massive Attack. They even headlined the inaugural Lollapalooza tour in 1991 and last year, the majority of their back catalogue was remastered and re-released.