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Siouxsie and the Banshees were an influential rock band which formed in 1976 in London, England. Initially associated with the British punk rock scene, the band quickly evolved to create "a form of post-punk discord full of daring rhythmic and sonic experimentation". The Times cited Siouxsie and the Banshees as "one of the most audacious and uncompromising musical adventurers of the post-punk era." After their split in 1996, Siouxsie and drummer Budgie continued to record music as The Creatures, a second band they had formed in the early 1980s. In 2004, Siouxsie began a solo career.
Their first single Hong Kong Garden reached the top ten in the UK in the summer of 1978. Their first album, The Scream (1978), is today considered as a classic. The NME wrote in its review : "The band sounds like some unique hybrid of the Velvet Underground mated with much of the ingenuity of Tago Mago-era Can, if any parallel can be drawn...Certainly, the traditional three-piece sound has never been used in a more unorthodox fashion with such stunning results." Indeed, Switch placed them as pioneers of the post-punk bands.
Their second album was Join Hands (1979); perhaps the darkest album. Guitarist McKay and drummer Morris left the band shortly after its release.
This change allowed the Banshees to play a different music. They recruited the drummer Budgie and the gifted guitarist John McGeoch, formerly of Magazine (his work with the Banshees was later praised by Radiohead and The Smiths).
John McGeoch played on the three following albums. Kaleidoscope (1980), including Happy House and Christine, showed a brand new musical departure with liquid guitars and atmospheric synthesizers : this eclectic record was a success and reached the top 5 in the national UK charts. One year later in 1981, Juju with the vibrant Spellbound, was another success.
The last session McGeoch recorded with the band was for the Slowdive single from the 1982's classic A Kiss In The Dreamhouse. The British press greeted this album enthusiastically. The NME finished its review with this sentence : "I promise. This music will take your breath away." But McGeoch, worn by the recording process of these songs, was hospitalized on his return from a promotional trip to Madrid.
At the same era, Siouxsie and drummer Budgie created another band, The Creatures, to record music more based on percussion.
In late 1982, McGeoch was replaced by Robert Smith (from The Cure) : Smith became a full-time member between 1982 and 1984. He contributed to the classic live album and DVD Nocturne (1983) and to the studio album Hyaena (1984) as co-composer.
Guitarist John Valentine Carruthers from Clock DVA replaced Smith in May 1984. He played on the successful Tinderbox album (1986), including the first hit-single of the band in the US Cities In Dust. The covers album Through The Looking Glass (1987) with This Wheel's On Fire, allowed the band to broaden their sound.
Following a lengthy break, the rest of the band recruited another new guitarist Jon Klein (Specimen) and the multi-instrumentalist McCarrick to record Peepshow (1988). The hit-single Peek-A-Boo was considered as avant-garde with its abrasive sounds.
After the most impressive tour of their career, the band stopped for a while and the second band of Siouxsie and Budgie The Creatures reappeared with another album, the critically acclaimed Boomerang (1989). One of the most languorous songs from this record, Killing Time, was covered live by Jeff Buckley a few years later.
In 1991, the Banshees returned with the single, Kiss Them For Me, mixing Beatles strings over a dance rhythm. This single peaked in the U.S. singles charts at number 23, allowing them to reach a new audience. Melody Maker praised the last two studio albums Superstition (1991) and The Rapture (1995- partially produced by John Cale) including a swansong called Forever.
Morrissey recorded a duet with Siouxsie called Interlude. This one-off single was published under the banner of the two artists names.
After the split of the band in 1996, the box set, Downside Up, was released, compiling 51 unreleased B-sides and the highly praised out-of-print "The Thorn" mini LP. Most of these numbers like Something Wicked (This Way Comes) and Red Over White (The Thorn) are considered by fans as classics.
After carried on recording as The Creatures, Siouxsie released her first solo album Mantaray in 2007 : the record was hailed by both Pitchfork and Mojo.
Influence On Other Artists
Siouxsie and the Banshees influenced musicians across many genres.
The band had a strong impact on Trip Hop acts :
* Tricky covered "Tattoo" to open his second solo album Nearly God. Here's his version: Tattoo. The original version of "Tattoo" was recorded in 1983 and is available on the Banshees Downside Up box set.
* Massive Attack covered and sampled the music of Metal Postcard on their song "Superpredators (Metal Postcard)" for the movie soundtrack The Jackal.
Siouxsie and the Banshees also inspired the following artists :
* LCD Soundsystem covered "Slowdive" for the cd-single "Disco Infiltrator". Here's the original Slowdive and the LCD Soundsystem version Slowdive (XFM session)
* Jeff Buckley covered live a Siouxsie / The Creatures song called 'Killing Time' originally composed in 1989 on the album Boomerang. Here's the original Killing Time.
* Morrissey stated this in 'GQ' in 1994 : "None of them are as good as Siouxsie and the Banshees at full pelt. That's not dusty nostalgia, that's fact."
* The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr from The Smiths stated on the BBC radio 2 in february'2008 that he rated very high McGeoch for his work on Spellbound.
* Garbage singer Shirley Manson wrote in the foreword of the official Siouxsie and the Banshees biography in 2003 by Mojo magazine journalist Mark Paytress : "I learned how to sing listening to The Scream and Kaleidoscope."
* Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood claims that while recording their song "There There", producer Nigel Godrich tried to get guitarist Jonny Greenwood to sound like the Banshees' John McGeoch.
* PJ Harvey selected in her top ten favourite albums of year 1999 : Anima Animus by The Creatures. aka Siouxsie.
*Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro also makes a parallel between his band and the Banshees in Siouxsie's official biography: "There are so many similar threads : melody, use of sound, attitude, sex-appeal. I always saw Jane's Addiction as the masculine Siouxsie and the Banshees."
*The Beta Band sampled the bridge of Painted Bird on their track Liquid Bird from the Heroes to Zeros album.
*Red Hot Chili Peppers covered Christine live at the V2001 festival. In 2002, their guitarist John Frusciante stated in an article featured on Total Guitar Magazine about Banshees guitarist John McGeoch : "He’s just a great guitar player, full stop. I wanted to listen to these people who weren’t just about technique but more about textures. People like John McGeoch. People who used good chords." also declaring that John McGeoch was an influence for the sound on the Red Hot Chili Peppers album By The Way.
*The Mars Volta covered Pulled to Bits (Live At The Royal Albert Hall) for the 'Wax Simulacra' single.
*Arcade Fire singer Win Butler suggested to the band Devotchka to cover the 1988 Siouxsie song : The Last Beat Of My Heart. One can listen to the Devothcka version on their Curse Your Little Heart ep.
* The Cure leader Robert Smith declared in 2003 in Mark Paytress's Siouxsie biography : "Siouxsie and The Banshees and Wire were the two bands I really admired. They meant something." He also pinpointed what the Join Hands tour brought him musically. "On stage that first night with the Banshees, I was Blown away by how powerful I felt playing that kind of music. It was so different to what we were doing with The Cure. Before that, I'd wanted us to be like The Buzzcocks or Elvis Costello, the punk Beatles. Being a Banshee really changed my attitude to what I was doing." He also talked about the band to Steve Sutherland in 1985 to describe "The Head On the Door" : "It reminds me of the Kaleidoscope album, the idea of having lots of different sounding things, different colors."
*U2 selected Christine for a compilation made for Mojo and The Edge presented an award to Siouxsie at a Mojo ceremony in 2005.
Split in 2002
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Through The Looking Glass