Superpop 18/09/79  
  Join Hands Japanese Advert Click Here For Bigger ScanOne thing Siouxsie & The Banshees are not is boring.  They can be good, superb, tedious and terrible all in the space of eight tracks.

I don't understand the Banshees brand of music.  It merges into melodrama, borders on the bizarre and is often operatic.  There's a vaguely threatening feel pervading the whole disc.

The excellent 'Playground Twist' is included here but after that and the oddly appealing 'Mother' side two breaks down (for me anyway).  Side one is a lot more listenable and a lot more recognisable Banshees.

After four or five plays I'm still in the dark.  But maybe that's the best place to listen. 

Mary Ann Ellis



  Webmaster 27/10/01  
  That difficult second album? Not so. More melodic than The Scream, but darker, more two tone, imminently more black and white. Death, religion, war, medicine, family (real and imagined). And why The Lords Prayer? I tend to think it wasn't due to lack of material, but to finally document it, as we know they tried to record it on numerous occasions and quite a few aborted versions of it exist. Pity The Lords Prayer wasn't released as a separate entity. When I play The Lords Prayer it's never as part of Join Hands. It's a song I choose to play in it's own right. When playing Join Hands I tend to skip The Lords Prayer. 

How would The Staircase (Mystery) or Pulled To Bits have sounded on this album? To hear Playground Twist followed directly by Pulled to Bits without the need to flip over the 7" single and to hear it as it was intended, a continuation on a similar theme would have been fitting. 

The Staircase (Mystery). Was there ever a more sure fire way of moving away from the success of Hong Kong Garden? A difficult second single for your average pop music consumer. Never meant for inclusion on either The Scream or Join Hands, it is just perfect as it is. 

What of Infantry, a two-minute, unfinished guitar riff. Is this in fact the piece of music used as an intro prior to the start of Helter Skelter during a 1980 gig? 

Which brings me to Trophy, meant for inclusion on Join Hands and held back or not finished in time for Kaleidoscope? I feel Trophy's guitar driven sound and themes would have complimented the rest of Join Hands perfectly, a simple verse chorus song, not well suited to the more experimental soundscapes found on Kaleidoscope. 

Would it have been fitting to record The Lords Prayer with a choir, orchestra, bells etc as suggested by the producer? Thank god the Banshees knocked that idea on the head. 

Which brings me to the original album cover concept of two children holding hands, which unfortunately, or fortunately the copyright was never acquired for. The soldiers and the wreath that make up the Join Hands cover SAY Join Hands to me, I can't imagine it any other way.


  Sounds 01/09/79  
  Join Hands Advert - Click Here For Bigger ScanWHADDA YA mean, is it extreme?  Can you honestly imagine the Banshees doing anything - whether it be throwing shapes for a camera, getting dressed for a night on the town or making a record - by halves?

They are, after all, the self-appointed prophets of the outer limits, superior beings sent to teach us humbler folk the futility of our ways - at least, that's the way they seem to often present themselves.  For some reason the stories about John McKay getting very friendly with a bottle of vodka and passing out in a cinema while trying to watch a film without subtitles in a language he doesn't speak seem to slip from the memory when placed alongside headlines that draw attention to the Ice Queen of New Musick.

Still, that's the price you pay if you insist on fitting the word 'catalepsy' into a song as they do on 'Premature Burial'.  If you talk it, other people are sure as hell gonna make you walk it.

And at the moment, the Banshees are very much in the unenviable position of becoming everybody's favourite whipping boys and girls.  After two years hustling in the wilderness they attained the dizzy heights of a major record deal and probably surprised a lot of people (including said record company, possibly) with the self-assured poise of their debut album and the chart success of 'Hong Kong Garden' - I can't think of anybody outside the band and their manager who thought the Banshees would become Top Of The Pops regulars with their first single.

Then came the relative failure of the follow-up singles, a failure made all the worse by the unexpected achievement of 'Hong Kong' and the band's rapid blossoming from cult status to second division attraction (ie they're no ELO but they're no UK Subs).  Obviously I've no idea of the internal machinations at Polydor, but I suspect that the record company ceased viewing the Banshees as their new wonderkids sometime around the week 'Staircase' failed to leap up the charts from its position tucked into the middle of the twenties.  In this straitened economic climate what else can a poor record company do but concentrate on the acts which make vast amounts of money? (In Polydor's case this probably means Jimmy Pursey and the Bee Gees.)

Added to that was the change in the press attitude to the band.  The Banshees had simply become boring.  There was little left to say once they'd established their own domain and carved out their own little patch of the rock 'n' roll universe (which quite likely includes hating being referred to as being rock 'n' roll).

Why think of the Banshees when you can thrill to the exciting world of Joy Division or, at the other extreme, the whole new mod movement?  Much as they hate the idea, the Banshees are now established, in much the same position as, say, Whitesnake.  There's no longer anything particularly exciting or original about them - if you've heard the first album and the singles, you'll know, with only maybe one exception, what this album will sound like even without listening to it.  Any band that puts 'catalepsy' into a song (sorry to repeat myself but I was struck by the self-conscious intellectualism of it) must have a distinct individual style, and you hardly expected the Banshees to turn round and start penning hymns to a brave new youth, calls to action for rude boys now did you?

Almost inevitably, the album bears the same relationship to 'The Scream' as 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' did to 'The Clash'.  Where the first album represented the collected efforts of a year's writing, the second had to be written almost to order and what it loses from not having been kicked around the brain cells for a year, it gains in thematic cohesion.  In the Banshees case, this means tightening up the fear, loathing, pain, alienation, desperation and all the jolly things like that and adding - just as The Clash did on 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' - a healthy does of military chic.  They've got soldiers on the cover and 'Poppy Day' in the first groove.

Ringing in the new album with a peal of bells, 'Poppy Day' sets the tone for the whole forty six minutes - about as cheerful as Chestrefield.  But, like all the Banshees stuff, its doesn't somehow make you feel like cutting your wrists any more than watching 'Dirty Harry' makes you feel like shooting people.  Guitars dominate as ever, prowling around like caged lions, swaying with Siouxsie's arm swinging.  The mix is different to the last album.  No longer does the bass thud around the bottom of the sound, giving you the impression that it was distorted when it wasn't.  Now there's a new clarity which frames Sue's voice like it was a thing of treasure.

A short fragment of a song it's still echoing in your head as it snaps into 'Regal Zone', the second, more aggressive, more neurotic, more dynamic and even more demonic offering.  If songs were ever min-epics, this would be - it both frightens and reassures.  A few loose slaps around the kit and Kenny Morris leads the band into 'Placebo Effect', a winding tortuous thing in the mood of 'The Switch' with added pacing.

'Icon' has Sue wailing from the depths of a grave - if there isn't wind whipping around the sound, there should be.  'Premature Burial' is even eerier, coming as it does from the background of an Edgar Allan Poe short story (which was turned into a Roger Corman flick which bore absolutely no relation to the Poe original).  Moody as an Elvis Presley staring down a photographer, it has Siouxsie's voice double tracked with devastating effect.

'Playground Twist' you know and it's apparently here because it didn't sell too well and the band wanted everybody to have a chance to hear it because they don't get any airplay and it has bells.

'Mother' is the exception I mentioned earlier.  Sue sings soft and quiet backed by a music box.  Placed as it is between 'Playground Twist' and the storming inferno 'The Lord's Prayer, its very delicacy displays a touching confusion.

The record company sheet attached to the album mentioned that it contained the band's original version of 'The Lord's Prayer'.  That's original as in very weird, not as in normal.  It'll undoubtedly raise a few hackles - Dylan certainly won't cover a Banshees song on his next album and I doubt if Cliff Richard will put it in his Star Choice.  It's fourteen minutes of rage and twisted bitterness which includes Sue 'quoting' from the likes of 'Twist And Shout' and the 'Yodeley-ee' song in 'The Sound Of Music'.  Both frightening and absorbing, it'll probably get them in the News Of The World.  It deserves better.

The final paragraph advises you to buy it if you liked the last album and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction if you didn't.  It's probably best you don't ask yourself why you like the Banshees.  I'm sure in my case its an aberration.



  Melody Maker 01/09/79  
  A year ago, the Banshees had a hit album, a Top 10 single ('Hong Kong Garden'), the crossover pop audience and the punk audience.  Credibility, critical acclaim and pop prowess.  They even wore their clothes nicely - perfect.  Blink... and it's gone!

There was a weak follow-up, 'Staircase'.  The group doesn't play much; the audience fragments; as the matrix moves to new areas.

In limbo, the Banshees plump for standbys:  "art" and "mystery".  It hurts.  Shorn of the bounce and verve that balanced the odd obscurity of 'The Scream', 'Join Hands' is a confusing, in parts brilliant, in parts awful, faintly musty collection.

Conveniently, almost all the better pieces are kept on the first side.  'Poppy Day', is a short, powerful evocation of the Great War graveyards in Flanders.  McKay's phased guitar scythes out a barrage of sound while the bass carries the tune.  'Regal Zone' opens with an urgent flurry, muted slightly by McKay's sax: it shifts into an urgent, insistent claustrophobia.

The two best tracks follow: 'Placebo Effect' has a stunning flanged guitar intro, chasing clinical lyrics covering some insertion or operation.  It winds down, spaciously, into the apocalyptic 'Icon'.  Siouxsie begins awkwardly, and the band slip into one of the oldest tricks in the book - the Bo Diddley rhythm - and make it their own: the brilliantly reverbed guitar is a perfect foil for Siouxsie's soaring and, for once, emotional vocal.

The second side begins with the single, 'Playground Twist'.  Siouxsie's fascination for the macabre finds an expression that suits it in a swirl of child-like disorientation and terror.  A great song.  'Mother' ten sets alarm bells ringing: a short recital by Sioux, childlike, over a music box, it's mawkish rather than evocative.

With 'The Lord's Prayer' the alarm bells burst into a cacophony of sirens.  Over 13 minutes Siouxsie pulls the wings off the Lord's Prayer over a Banshee boogie which, when it shifts, provides the only movements of interest.  It's not art, not proper noise: the Banshees aren't, respectively, good enough artists or incompetent enough musicians.  The 100 Club one-liner (and myth), taken out of context, is made absurd.

At its worst, 'Join Hands' is unforgivably necrophiliac; at its best, it captures the power of which the Banshees are capable.  Translated practically, all this means: listen before you buy.

Jon Savage.