Siouxsie and the Banshees were among the longest-lived and most successful acts to emerge from the London punk community; over the course of a career that lasted two decades, they evolved from an abrasive, primitive art punk band into a stylish, sophisticated unit that even notched a left-field Top 40 hit.
Throughout its numerous lineup changes and textural shifts, the group remained under the leadership of vocalist Siouxsie Sioux, born Susan Dallion on May 27, 1958. She and the Banshees' initial lineup emerged from the Bromley Contingent, a notorious group of rabid Sex Pistols fans; inspired by the growing punk movement, Dallion adopted the name Siouxsie and formed the Banshees in September 1976. In addition to bassist Steven Severin and guitarist Marco Perroni, the band included drummer John Simon Ritchie, who assumed the name Sid Vicious; they debuted later that year at the legendary Punk Festival held at London's 100 Club, where their entire set consisted of a savage, 20-minute rendition of "The Lords Prayer."
Soon after, Vicious joined the Sex Pistols, while Perroni went on to join Adam & the Ants. The core duo of Sioux and Severin, along with new guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris, reached the U.K. Top Ten with their 1978 debut single, "Hong Kong Garden"; their grim, dissonant first LP, The Scream, followed later in the year. Two days into a tour for their 1979 follow-up, Join Hands, both McKay and Morris abruptly departed, and guitarist Robert Smith of the Cure (the tour's opening act) and ex-Slits and Big in Japan drummer Budgie were enlisted to fill the void; although Smith returned to the Cure soon after, Budgie became a permanent member of the group, and remained with the Banshees throughout the duration of their career.
With ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch on board, the band returned to the studio for 1980's Kaleidoscope, a subtler and more melodic effort than their prior records; on the strength of the U.K. Top 20 smash "Happy House," the album reached the Top Five. A year later, the Banshees released the psychedelic Juju, along with Once Upon a Time, a collection of singles; at the same time, Sioux and Budgie formed the Creatures, an ongoing side project. Following 1982's experimental A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, McGeoch fell ill, and Smith temporarily rejoined for the group's planned tour; a pair of 1983 performances at London's Royal Albert Hall were recorded and later issued as Nocturne. Also in 1983, Severin and Smith teamed as the one-off project the Glove for the LP Blue Sunshine.
After his recovery, McGeoch opted not to return, so the Banshees recruited former Clock DVA guitarist John Carruthers after Smith exited following the sessions for 1984's dark, atmospheric Hyaena. With 1986's Tinderbox, Siouxsie and the Banshees finally reached the U.S. Top 100 album charts, largely on the strength of the excellent single "Cities in Dust." After 1987's all-covers collection Through the Looking Glass, Carruthers took his leave and was replaced by ex-Specimen guitarist Jon Klein and keyboardist Martin McCarrick for 1988's Peepshow, a techno-inspired outing that gave the group its first U.S. chart single with "Peek-a-Boo."
In 1991 -- the year in which Sioux and Budgie married -- the Banshees performed on the inaugural Lollapalooza tour; their concurrent LP, Superstition was their most commercially successful, spawning their lone U.S. Top 40 hit, "Kiss Them for Me." Another singles collection, Twice Upon a Time, followed in 1992 before the group returned after a long absence with 1995's stylish The Rapture, produced in part by John Cale. A year later, the nostalgia surrounding the reunion of their former heroes the Sex Pistols prompted Siouxsie and the Banshees to finally call it quits; Siouxsie and Budgie turned to the Creatures as their primary project, while Severin composed the score for the controversial film Visions of Ecstasy. In 2002 Sioxsie, Severin, Budgie and Chandler reunited for the so-called Seven Year Itch tour, eventually leading to a live album, Seven Year Itch, and a DVD concert film in 2003. Universal Music began releasing the band's albums remastered with bonus tracks in 2006. Voices on the Air: The Peel Sessions, drawn from live recordings made for the John Peel radio show between 1978 and 1986, appeared that same year.
The band’s last 1980s album included a new guitarist, Jon Klein along with another new member – cellist Martin McCarrick. This changing of the guard meant some radical, yet wonderful, changes to the band’s recordings. The album opens with the fabulous, Peek-A-Boo, which made the UK Top 20 and it also includes, The Last Beat of My Heart and The Killing Jar which both made the Top 50. The production work by Mike Hedges adds so much to the album that emphasizes the band’s innate ability in creating atmospheric songs with wonderful titles that have lyrical depth – with the usual dollop of creepiness.
After Join Hands, guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris departed the Banshees, leaving the band at a crossroads. Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin elected to soldier on with ex-Slits drummer Budgie and two guitarists, ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones and John McGeoch of Magazine as guest Banshees. Despite the personnel upheaval, the result is a surprisingly strong record: Kaleidoscope.
Tinderbox is the most musically up-tempo of all Siouxsie and the Banshees' albums and the most stylistically consistent one since The Scream and Join Hands. Most of the selections here feature urgently rocking drumming, drivingly aggressive yet fully textured guitar playing, and masterful, gutsy singing. The songs here are intense and unfold slowly, some starting off less vigorously but becoming hard rockers further along. There is of course a fine line between consistency and lack of contrast, but this album stays firmly on the side of the former; in fact, there's a certain satisfying feel to the musically uniform wall of sound here.
One of the band's masterworks, Juju sees Siouxsie and the Banshees operating in a squalid wall of sound dominated by tribal drums, swirling and piercing guitars, and Siouxsie Sioux's fractured art-attack vocals. If not for John McGeoch's marvelous high-pitched guitars, here as reminiscent of Joy Division as his own work in Magazine, the album would rank as the band's most gothic release. Siouxsie and company took things to an entirely new level of darkness on Juju, with the singer taking delight in sinister wordplay on the disturbing "Head Cut," creeping out listeners in the somewhat tongue-in-cheek "Halloween," and inspiring her bandmates to push their rhythmic witches brew to poisonous levels of toxicity.
This 84-track, digitally-remastered, set of BBC sessions, live concert tracks and TV performances were recorded between 1977–1991 and shows of the band at its very best. It features live sessions filmed for the BBC’s TV series, Old Grey Whistle Test and shows for the first time an unreleased concert captured in Warwick in March 1981, prior to the Juju album with John McGeoch on guitars, along with Robert Smith playing guitars on nine songs. According to Mojo magazine, “Make no mistake: post-punk started here. And that’s not the half of it. Between late 1977 and autumn ’79, no British band could touch the Banshees. . .it chronicles the transformation of punk’s most militant iconoclasts into an alternative music colossus.”
Broadening the eclectically experimental landscape of 1982's Kiss in the Dream House with the occasional string arrangement and a spacious sound mix, Siouxsie and the Banshees' Geffen debut nicely bridges the gap between the band's handful of more-punk-than-pop early releases and their run of new wave, radio-friendly hits from the late '80s and early '90s.
After building up an intense live reputation and a rabid fan base, Siouxsie and the Banshees almost had to debut with a stunner -- which they did, "Hong Kong Garden" taking care of things on the singles front and The Scream on the full-length. Matched with a downright creepy cover and a fair enough early producing effort from Steve Lillywhite -- well before he found gated drum sounds -- it's a fine balance of the early band's talents.
Siouxsie and the Banshees' last studio album, released in 1995 was produced by former member of the Velvet Underground, John Cale, which seems like the perfect way to close out the career of one of the UK’s foremost Punk and Goth bands. They were always a band that did things their way, an uncompromising way that stretched fans and critics, sometimes to the limit. Never conventional, yet always convincing.
A Kiss in the Dreamhouse shows Siouxsie and the Banshees backpedalling a bit from their excellently forthright predecessor, Juju, to update the more avant-garde stylings of Kaleidoscope. This album is in fact the Banshees' crowning glory in this experimental vein. Production and arrangements are highly varied and accomplished, and Sioux's singing by now is excellent, capable of imaginative shadings and free of its former tunelessness.
The band’s second album, released in 1979 that made No.13 in the UK album chart; one place lower than their debut. The best track for many people is Icons while the album’s closer, The Lord’s Prayer harks back to their very first gig playing the Punk Festival at London’s 100 Club. It shows Siouxsie and the Banshees were already taking risks, a constant feature in their long and illustrious career.