NME 22/10/05  
  The Scream Remaster Instore Advert - Click Here For Bigger ScanREISSUE OF THE WEEK

Princess of wails

Lovingly repackaged debut still has bite 27 years on.

Sometimes, watching the footage of the Sex Pistols-swearing-on-ITV incident alongside John Lydon making his bulging-eyed way round the current chatshow circuit, it's tempting to conclude that nobody involved has moved on much from 1976, either creatively or intellectually.

It's a false impression, though, as this re-release of Siouxsie & The Banshees' debut shows.  By the time it made its first appearance back in November 1978, Sioux had already left behind the toybox pallet of punk - swearing, swastikas and simple pogo-friendly riffs - and was busy inventing post-punk.  While punk's Year Zero mentality meant bands were tossing the Bolan out with the Roger Waters, the Banshees were happy to raid pop culture for starting points.  Their cover of The Beatles' 'Helter Skelter', which could put the fear of God into Charles Manson, nevermind Ringo Starr, provides a pretty good example of how far they were able to travel from that inspiration.

So fresh does 'The Scream' sound, even now, that it's much easier to see its impact on those that came after, than trace where the hell all the ideas came from.  Of course there's Banshee DNA running through any band which has ever back-combed (you will know them by the trail of the heavily applied mascara), from Bauhaus through the Mary Chain to The Cure, but the echoes run beyond the obvious mini-Shees of the goth world.  Every time Karen O uses her voice like it was percussion, or Polly Jean Harvey hits you around the head, there's a small debt to 'The Scream' being run up.

'The Scream. is leading off a procession of Banshees re-releases over the coming 12 months or so, and in a world where it's easy to assume there's nobody left on a major label who much cares about music, it brings a tear to the cynical eye to see just how much care has been lavished on the package.  The original collection of tracks has been given the expected digital remastering, but, more importantly, a second disc of stuff actually worth having has been gently eased into the slipcase.  You get two complete Peel Sessions from '78 and the demo debuts of some of 'The Scream' tracks.  'Hong Kong Garden', the Top 10 hit left off the collection in a fit of something between petulance and perversity is welcomed back and, for the first time ever on anything approaching an official basis, 'Make Up To Break Up'.

Back on the '70s, 'The Scream' was the perfect riposte to those who suggested the punk movement had none of its own ideas to replace the chugging old bands it came to destroy.  In 2005, set alongside the Blunts, Gallaghers and Bonos we're lumbered with, it still sounds like a promise of a gathering storm.  Simon Hayes Budgen 


January 14, 1978

"Siouxsie's voice is staggered.  No orthodox fluid melodies, but clipped, forced lines, sharply falling and rising.  She displays no exhaustion or any other colourful sideshows that performers so often find in themselves.  From the dark side of life, grinning, perverted, subversive; euphoria and depression, vision and pessimism mysteriously co-exist."  Paul Morley



"Women in the charts up to that point had been presenting a glossy, sanitised version of femininity - wearing little rah-rah skirts with their bellies hanging out.  But Siouxsie, with her face painted with that tribal make-up, she came along looking like a warrior."


"Her influence cannot be understated.  In my record collection there's Siouxsie & The Banshees' entire back catalogue."



  Uncut 11/05  
  Knowing Siouxsie as Godmother of Goth, it's easy to forget that the Banshees were originally regarded as exemplary post-punk vanguardists.  Laceratingly angular.  The Scream reminds you what an inclement listen the group was at the start.  Sure, there's a couple of tunes as catchy as "Hong Kong Garden", which appears twice here on the alternative versions-crammed second disc of BBC session and demos.  "Mirage" is a cousin to "Public Image", while the buzzsaw chord drive of "Nicotine Stain" faintly resembles The Undertones, of all people.

But one's first and lasting impression of Scream is shaped by the album being bookended by it's least conventional tunes.  Glinting and fractured, opener, "Pure" is an  instrumental in the sense that Siouxsie's voice is just an abstract, sculpted texture whooping across the stereo-field.  Final track "Switch" is closer to a song, but structurally as unorthodox as Roxy Music's "If There Is Something".

Glam's an obvious reference point for the Banshees, but The Scream also draws from the moment when psychedelia turned dark.  "Helter Skelter" is covered, surely as much for the Manson connection as for Beatles love.  Guitarist John McKay's flange resembles a Cold Wave update of 1967-style phasing, and the stridency of Siouxsie's singing channels Grace Slick.  In songs like the autism-inspired "Jigsaw Feeling", there's even a vibe of mental disintegration that recalls trippy Jefferson Airplane's "Two Heads".  Another crack-up song "Suburban Relapse", always make me think of the middle-aged housewife in every neighbourhood with badly applied make-up and a scary lost look in her eyes.  Siouxsie's suspicion, not just of domesticity but of that other female cage, the body, comes through in the fear of flesh anthem "Metal Postcard", whose exaltation of the inorganic and indestructible ("Metal is tough, metal will sheen - metal will rule in my master-scheme") seems at odds with the song's inspiration, the anti-fascist collage artist John Heartfield.

The Scream is another Banshees altogether from the lush seductions of Kaleidoscope and Dreamhouse.  McKay and drummer Kenny Morris quit the group on the eve of the band's first headlining tour, and their replacements - John McGeoch and Budgie - were far more musically proficient.  Yet The Scream along with early singles such as "The Staircase (Mystery)" and the best bits of next album Join Hands does momentarily make you wonder about the alternative-universe path the original Banshees might have pursued if they'd stayed together and strayed monochrome and minimalist.  

Simon Reynolds



  Mojo 11/05  
  Archetypal post-punk opus remastered, with extra CD

The band might have eschewed political sloganeering and deliberately created a visual aesthetic that distanced their work from punk but The Scream - philosophically cold, sonically arid but driven by evidently deep-rooted antagonisms - remains hallmarked by the times nonetheless.  Britain in 1978 was a tatty mess, and the repressed emotional angst of the suburbs oozes from these caustic blasts.  Much of the Banshees' debut still sounds magnificent:  Jigsaw Feeling and Carcass the reverse of glam's tribal hedonism.  Overground a downcast riddle, the pulverising take on McCartney's Helter Skelter.  Siouxsie's vocal presence dominates, but every element, however rudimentary, is crucial.  The extras constitute the album in rehearsal, via demos and Peel sessions, plus non-album singles Hong Kong Garden and The Staircase (Mystery); nothing too significant, bar the first ever release of early live signature Make Up To Break Up.  


Keith Cameron



  Q 11/05  
  Comprehensive reissue of electrifying 1978 debut.

You could try post-punk or goth, but Siouxsie & The Banshees debut album still resists categorisation.  The deviant power of punk and glam is detectable but The Scream shows a band turning their dread and disgust into something new.  Powered by Siouxsie Sioux's imperious vocals, Suburban Relapse deals with mental breakdown.  Carcass equates love with the abattoir, while the cover of The Beatles' Helter Skelter explains why Charles Manson loved the song. Disc two includes a tremendous selection of Peel sessions.  

Victoria Segal