NME 1989  
  The Scream, Join Hands, Kaleidoscope, Juju, A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, Nocturne, Once Upon A Time (Polydor CD reisuues)

It's not until they're all heaped in front of you that you suddenly realise just how many Siouxsie And The Banshees LPs you've let drift past you over the years.

Once upon a time, common with most of the leading late '70s punk outfits, the release of a Banshees LP was something of an event.  There was a genuine excitement when 'The Scream' came out, even 'Join Hands'.  It was as if these little bits of plastic would have a profound effect on the rest of your life.

Then, as their career got to them their LPs came and went, singles charted and flopped - and it wasn't a matter of life and death anymore.  It wasn't growing up, it was The Banshees winding down.

Yet, even though they've curled up with the Record Business, you can see from this silverware that their time together has been justified.

'The Scream' is still a wonderfully chilling and spikey album.  The last of the great punk bands to make their debut, The Banshees came along with an LP that even upturned some of punk's rules (with tender sounding spitefulness rather than yobbish vengeance).

With its sparseness, its tetchy guitar and its jagged edges, 'The Scream' has, miraculously, stood the test of time, fulfilling, 11 years on all the praise they (and it) had thrust upon them at the time.  With 'Jigsaw Feeling', 'Overground' and 'Helter Skelter' The Banshees were making brave pop songs with a sense of challenge. 9/10

Even 'Join Hands' had them worrying the competition, despite barely knowing which direction it was heading.  If 'The Scream' had been the shocking, scary debut, then 'Join Hands' was a more absorbing, haunting LP.  The hassled angry sound of the likes of 'Playground Twist' holds it up, the appalling (and by then out of place) version of 'The Lord's Prayer' lets it down.  8/10

The 'difficult' third LP 'Kaleidoscope' follows, but The Banshees were still bearing up well - despite the obligatory awful Polydor-punk sleeve, which could have been knocked out for one of their 20 New Wave groups.  Again, they held you in a cool grip with 'Happy House' (Norman Bates in the shower?) while the rest of the album tingles, wicked grins on their faces.  7/10

By the time of 'Juju' (they'd lost me by now) Siouxsie was becoming the Ice Queen and The Banshees, suffering the first twinges of middle-age a bit early.  The sense of urgency was waning and in its place came a swirling gracefulness - on its own, and in comparison with what else was being released at the time, it's a majestic LP; considering what had gone before it was something of a let down.  5/10

In the reissue list 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse' comes next, proving to be an upturn in places with tracks such as the excellent 'She's A Carnival' and its lyrical mysteries.  7/10

and that's followed by 'Nocturne', the live, but average collection of all the hits (including 'Dear Prudence', 'Israel', a better sleeve etc).  7/10

Or if you prefer, Polydor are replugging the 'Once Upon A Time' collection, the bona fide greatest hits compilation with studio versions of the singles - an essential starting place if you've got no other Banshees record.  It shows how they could discipline themselves to make superb pop records.  8/10

And that's it for now.  The Banshees moving on in their bitter-sweet way, regardless of style or fashion, which is one of their best characteristics.  From punk to pride, through perversity.  I suppose we shouldn't take them so much for granted.

Steve Lamacq