Sometimes, at least for a while, you just have one album by an artist and this was our Banshees album. My brother bought it in the summer of 1981 on the strength of the hit single Spellbound and it hit the ground running in our house. It’s a strong, evocative and haunting work and it soundtracked many a board game and jigsaw puzzle.
Guitarist John McGeoch's exceptional playing is rightly acclaimed but it shouldn't be overestimated - everyone here has raised their game. The key dynamic for each song is the insistent interlocking rhythm of the guitar against Budgie’s drums propelled by Steven Severin’s bass and haunted by the singer's swooping call.
It is Siouxsie's voice as percussion/messenger/human instrument that binds the piece, makes it exotic yet recognisable and unique.
Side one is remarkable, kicking off with Spellbound, a thrilling single from a summer full of thrilling singles, followed by the hook laden Into The Light featuring the unusual dulcimer instrument. The first half-minute of Arabian Nights (another hit) demonstrates all their powers, the creepy introductory chord harnessed by halting toms sinks into a smothering groove verse before a thundering celebratory chorus.
The punkier Hallowe'en is next and it segues into Monitor of which the opening rhythm chords eventually explode brilliantly into the song proper. Monitor is the centrepiece for me and is the most played punky band abrasive rock type song in my world for the last few years – I think it’s aged very well.
I haven’t heard side two as much as the other side but I intend to - it ranges from epic darkness (Nightshift, Voodoo Dolly) to violent funk rock (Head Cut) and all out one-note-song-by-attitude shocker Sin in my Heart.
The record sleeve looks like how the record sounds, a cryptic postcard from a strange hot land east of the Nile, gold and black music notation snips pasted Burroughs next to the head of a mysterious statue. The songs took you to places – hotter stickier and scarier. The album has a bit of a reputation as the template of goth and as the defining moment/millstone for the Banshees but I just think of it as a really good album which evokes enough powerful memories to prevent me overplaying it .
It’s a shaker. It’s a breaker.
– NME - “ a gliding, comfortless delivery of self-distrust, infatuation and fetishism”
– Melody Maker - “they’ve already composed quality nightmare soundtracks and they don’t need to do it again”
– Sounds – “doom is at the door…creating something intriguing, intensely brooding and powerfully atmospheric”
“Sit back and enjoy the real McCoy….” (Monitor)