Zig Zag 1978  
  FIRST day I got it I stunned a full room with this magnificent record. . . and you should have seen me three hours and four more plays later!  Countless gigs and the John Peel sessions told me month ago that, when it came, the Banshees album would be a cut above the usual Promising First Album.  But even my sky-high anticipations hadnít set me up for this.

Own-up time: normally I can dash off reviews of Good Albums which are fun to listen to while in the bath listening to "The Archers" and playing with my swimming frog.  This one. . . Iíve played it and played it, started this review loads of times, but Iíve only ever felt like this about a record less times than I can count on my fingers this decade and itís difficult to capsule a record this good in mere words.  (GOOD.  I mean how pale a description is that!)  So Iím racking my brains - the Banshees have already succeeded on a couple of counts because they want people to think and question.  Too much is easy. . . . 

Anyway, I canít think of another group who could have made an LP so uncompromising, powerful and disturbing, yet so captivating and ENJOYABLE.  A bit like a film that does you in ("The Devils", "Performance", "The Exorcist" - my examples).  It is certainly a Special Classic to join milestones like "Diamond Dogs", Roxyís First, "Berlin" and Nicoís last three.  This is music of such strength and vision that you just canít not be moved by the time they swing into the final climactic passage of "Switch", the closing track.

Unbothered by their relatively little studio experience The Banshees have poured out eighteen frustrated months of back-numbered ideas into a clear statement of where they stand now, how much theyíve progressed since early days.

When the needle first hits vinyl itís the primeval swamp wailings of "Pure", an eerie fanfare, which seep out before the dam breaks and out bursts the unstoppable grand power of "Jigsaw Feeling", a song of disorientation and bewilderment.  The sound is huge, sometimes awe-inspiring.  John McKayís guitar is a one-man maelstrom of nightmare riffs and counter-melodies sparking from a sheet of jagged repetition.  Steven Severin pumps in the full-stops and commas with heart-beat bass punctuation.

Underneath it all Kenny Morris thunders away with one of the best drum sounds Iíve ever heard - the deep echo and floor-shuddering mix accentuating his muted Glitter Band stomp.  In this bed of deep sound Siouxsie intones, soars and becomes another instrument.  They took a lot of care with the mix - "The Scream" took a week to record, three to mix.  With Steve Lillywhite theyíve produced an aural monster!

For some reason "Overground" reminds me of a desolate desert post-gunfight scene in a Clint Eastwood film, with its Spanish guitar and heavy-Mex slow riff, but Siouxsie is singing about Green Belt submission into normality - "Overground To Identity".  Thatís a favourite Banshees theme, Ďcept in the harrowing "Suburban Relapse" the central heating advert housewife succumbs and breaks under the pressures of monotony - "Iím sorry that I hit you but my string snapped".  The track is a nerve-shattering rampage of thunderous frenzy, careering to the breakdown and the end, when the doorbell rings (What grizzly sight greeted the eyes of the Avon lady?)

"Mirage" speaks for itself - "itís not what it seems" - and multi-tracked Sioux is cushioned on Lola 12-strings for a while.  So much going on here. . . .

"Metal Postcard", dedicated to anti-war propagandist John Heartfield (see ZZ 85) is sinister, brooding and STRONG - that word keeps coming back, and you can apply it in most ways to this group, i.e., their quiet assurance and unity in what they do, the music itself, the determination to overcome a year of record company apathy . . . all I donít know is how good is Sioux at arm wrestling?

One of the most recent of side twoís brace of Ď78 banshees tracks is "Nicotine", certainly a match for the others (yeah!), as Sioux waxes despisedly at the wheezy weed.

There are two "Golden Oldies", which appear back-to-back on side one and provide the albumís most pogo-able moments - "Carcass" and "Helter Skelter".  The former is meaty (sorry), beaty and witty, being the already-much-written-about tale for a love-struck butcher, while the Fab Four ditty rises from itís clashing, jarring birth into a frenetic mutilation.

Iíve saved the best Ďtil last.  The best is last - "Switch".  Itís the longest, most adventurous thing the Banshees have done, with different sections for the different people who swap jobs with terrible results - scientists, GP and Vicar.

Different lives
in different places
familiar problems
same old faces
Shuffle lives
into wrong categories
cross the wires
and fuse humanities
Watch the muscle twitch
for a brand new switch

This is Siouxís best vocal performance.  She handles the complicated lyrics and sections with mournful, moving control and shades of Nico in the chilling long notes.  Panic and passion creep in as the band rise and fall, and you realise that Siouxsie has become one of our most mesmerising and individual singers, if you hadnít already (notice I didnít say "female").

Thatís it, one of the most remarkable debuts ever.  Fact is, while Iím revelling in the impact of this record (and I know Iíve gone justifiably over trying to convey it), I have little desire at all to hear most of the other things in my (quite big) record collection.  Hi Cheapos!

Through everything Siouxsie and the Banshees have stuck to their pure route.  Without fuss theyíve emerged the other side with a scream of triumph.  

Kris Needs



  Unknown source  
  Well, well.  The strong lyrics on this album suggest that despite her irresponsible flaunting of Nazi war sickeners, the silly biddy may be worth something after all.  A cold and distant but strangely compelling album of modern music that I keep going back to.  Check this one out too.  Best trax: 'Jigsaw Felling', 'Mirage'.  

7 out of 10



  Webmaster 27/10/01  
  The closest the Banshees ever came to being 'punk' was probably on the early songs, Scrapheap, Psychic, Bad Shape, Make Up To Break Up, Love In A Void, and Carcass. But their true 15 minutes of punk was undoubtedly their debut version of The Lords Prayer. The Scream, punk? I don't think so, the closest it comes is on the song Carcass, a song that in retrospect Severin thought shouldn't have been included and I tend to agree with him, great song, but doesn't sit well with the rest of the album. 

Punk was noise. The Scream was far ahead of its time, bleak, sparse, sharp, claustrophobic, images of metal, machines, suburbia spring to mind, tones of gray, blue and black. Right from the superb sleeve concept, from Pure through to Switch. 

Hong Kong Garden was never meant for inclusion, this two-minute plus, brash, two chord pop wonder, when listened to on the US release of The Scream jars with the stark landscapes of the remaining songs. Pure IS the opening track; plonking Hong Kong Garden there instead ruins the whole feel of the album. 

Those early punk songs that became the Track Rehearsal out takes should remain as they are. How would they have fit into the scheme of things? They have a totally separate identity to The Scream, along with 20th Century Boy & Love In A Void. 

The Banshees original vision was to not include singles or b-sides on albums, something that as fans of music themselves, they thought their fans would appreciate. Sadly this didn't last longer than the first album and hence Playground Twist was included on Join Hands, not through Record Company insistence, but because that's what the fans wanted. How many bands can you name who's debut single and it's subsequent follow up, were not included on the debut album, in fact no singles at all. That to me, along with The Lords Prayer 100 Club debut IS the attitude of punk. If you're looking for the noise that was punk, then don't look for it on The Scream; look to those early, unreleased songs or to the many bands who made a career out of it.


  NME 18/11/78  
  Well, whatever would Edvard Munch have said?

Good-day, second-class of '78!

And now for the last goddam time in my life - I ask you, who wants to be David Bowie when they graduate?  hands up!

Kate - dear, you're too maudlin and pretty and healthy, and the fathers fancy you more than the daughters do.  Is that any way for a teen queen to be?  Besides, you cover too many markets.

Howard - you don't cover any, and anyhow you're bald and "the kids" can't "dance to it".

Japan and Ultravox! - I will NOT tolerate over-made-up, non-starter gangs in my classroom!

Adam - you have the mark of the loser - sorry, kid, not of exotic Cain - on you, and besides, you're podgy.

Cherie - Cherie, how many times do I have to tell you, you should be in your cabaret class by now.  Out, go on, take your twin with you and don't ever let me see you outside of Las Vegas again!

Siouxsie - ah, Siouxsie, come up the front here and show the boys and girls how it should be done.

One:  must be skinny, wear a mass of make-up and look asexual enough to accommodate every closet's ambivalent fantasies.  Two:  blind the critics with words and silence and all but a few ungrateful hack swine with long memories - who don't understand and are NEVER gonna understand - will lick your soles for the privilege of sitting through an interview's worth of verbal contempt from you.  Three:  flirt with the all-time contraband coquette that is Fascism, however lightly (an armband, a salute, a sentence) and it will still get that ridiculously uncool yet controversial minority going.  Four:  get out of your depth.

And I have come to hate glamour hangover (Bowie, Eno and Pop).  They hang on and on.  How I wish they would drop dead and take Miss Banshee with them, just to spare me this task.  But what do I care?  Because like all mod muse these days, Siouxsie and her Banshees'll only end up being walked down the fashion-catwalk to be Marie Helvin Bailey.  You're all just making music for models to walk to, just reward and desserts for all you self-inflated pop stars.

So I don't need my hatchet.  Let's bury it and get objective.

Factoid:  since the Second World War retreated comfortably back into the realms of imagery, Germanic girls (or otherwise descended girls whom the liberated sicko mind can twist into being Teutonic) singing songs about death, doom and decay are very artistically credible.

Things I like about Siouxsie:  "Hong Kong Garden"; the way she treats her audience like muck, knowing why the gross majority of them come to gape at her; I even kind of liked the way she danced on Top Of The Pops.

Fact:  until recently, Siouxsie And The Banshees included in their stage set a song they had written called "Love In A void".  This song featured the line "Too many Jews for my liking".  This, says Siouxsie was a metaphor for too many fat businessmen waiting to pounce, suck the youth from and  cast aside new talent.

I do not see the connection.  I, self-righteous square that I am, consider "Too many jews for my liking" to be the most disgusting and unforgivable lyric-line ever written, though God knows there has been more appalling filth written within rock 'n' roll than in every other branch of entertainment taken together.

None of it comes anywhere in sight of Siouxsie, though.  She is well into her twenties, so ignorant youth is no excuse, however lame.  Therefore she must be either evil or retarded - well, can YOU think of any other way out?  To shock?  No - the pain and dreadful implications of this sentence could only be justified into a means of outrage by aforementioned retard.

Though I know that for a critic to tell the Banshees where to go is as de trop as liking, say, The Runaways'  I am still particularly disgusted by the way Jewish writers (Viv Goldman) and otherwise extremely moral writers (Chris Brazier) have drooled over the silly cow, letting her get away with that line as long as she promises "Oh, it was an unwise choice, I'll change it as soon as I can think of something better!"

Well, take your shocking song and stick it up your rude white ass, Sioux, because here's a review that don't believe in running with the pack.

Oh daddy please, pretty please, won't you beat up that nasty girl and make her fade away?  She hurts my ears and she bores me and the only reason she hasn't been written off yet as a corny 'art-rock' act is that she once used to hang around some, ah, punk band.

Standing alone, the Banshee sound is a self-important threshing machine thrashing all stringed instruments down onto the same low level alongside that draggy sub-voice as it attempts futile eagle and dove swoops around the mono-beat.  Their sound is certainly different from the normal guitar-bass-drums-voice consequence.  But it's radically stodgy as opposed to that light-fantastic Public Image trip on their single (bass-thump almost out of earshot, felt more as a vibration than heard as a sound, guitar getting as high and light as it takes to sound as little like a guitar hero as possible).  Imagine that great sound then think of the exact opposite and you have Siouxsie And The Banshees:  loud, heavy and levelling, the sound of suet pudding.

Start with an instrumental circa "Warsawza".

Instrumentals are pretentious as shit.  I don't care who does them.  Chuck Berry never felt the need to, so screw you, Sioux.  Follow it with moody modern black-and-white-era-horror-films to impress the impressionable.  The Banshees unite sub-glam flowering poses ("Amorphous jigsaw pieces tra la la") with unpleasant but true sociology topics (going mental, self-mutilation, Fascism, cancer):  subjects which have only been dealt with in any number by "punk".  I am bored by and abhor the way the Banshees mess around with the two greatest genres of the decade and make both forms emerge bloodied, limping and sorely in need of G.C.E. Eng Lang frame of reference.

i quite enjoyed singing along to "Helter Skelter" (least awful effort here, and even that was written elsewhere) and "Carcass" got me a bit jittery until I saw the joke, giggled and yawned.  The rest (barely) struck me as endless plain noise totally bereft of melody.

I just heard Sioux on Hullabaloo, whining away in that horrid Chislehurst-climber accent about how "Summer Nights" being Number One for seven weeks was actually brain-washing.  Never mind, dear, you can always sleep guilt-free and tight at night in the sound knowledge that none of your recordings are ever going to put people in that loathsome position, huh?

I wish they were showing clips from that capitalist, corporation-made, youth-exploitation film Grease on TV right now.  I  could do with some send-up, affectionate, overground food for thought after sitting through all this "So I just sit in reverie/Getting on my nerves"  wood-worm brain-rot hen-type-brooding from Siouxsie's boys.

I'll tell you what, I said i would be as objective as 'tis possible for an intelligent person to be.  So, against all odds (I hate her voice, her band, her image), i do think that Siouxsie could be quite a smart girl if only she didn't work so hard at being marvellous for fools.

Her words for "Switch" and "Nicotine Stain" (she should write more lyrics alone) contain a certain germ which is rendered totally ineffectual via drone, pretension and conceit.  Her words for the stunning "Suburban Relapse" are flawed only in the tune that John McKay sets it to and, naturally, by the singularly awful Banshee sound.

Ah well, kid, take it to yourself and examine your subconscious.  Maybe, you'll love it.  me, I keep seeing Siouxsie up there in her swastika armband making nothing but a fashion accessory out of the death of millions of people.

And I honestly don't think that a rilly sensitive person like myself can ever see beyond that.

Julie Burchill