It is pretty much a given that a big part of post-punk group Siouxsie And The Banshees’ initial attraction, what split them from the pack, was their glam goth frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux. They even named the band after her. The punk movement was generally male-dominated. Just Google image ‘1970s punk bands’ and, yes, there was Debbie Harry and the Slits, of course, but apart from these there wasn’t a great much else around; the scene was more or less flooded with all-male groups. In fact, there was possibly more women among the crowd at gigs than they were represented on stage. Siouxsie was one of these, who would attend many a punk rock gig around ’76 and ’77. This would turn out to be a crucial grounding, for both her and her band.
When listening to those early Banshees records it’s not always easy to pinpoint specific acts to which they sounded similar. Back in 1978 rock ‘n roll had less history to take from and thus, unlike today, less to be influenced by. This might be no bad thing.
(I’ve often thought it’s becoming increasingly common for records to appear as if trying too hard to demo almost too many styles and genres. An artist wanting to transfer their rather sprawling and eclectic record collection onto their own record. It was Johnnny Marr who said that he prefers the idea of keeping things simpler and influences narrow. If not then there’s the danger the record ending up sounding like an up-its-own-arse, lifeless mess, lacking both personality and identity, I think).
Obviously the Beatles were a big Banshees influence alongside the punk bands, and the group would even go on to record a couple of Beatles songs. One such, Helter Skelter, can be found on debut LP the visceral ‘the Scream’. Their version a wild and loose interpretation full of hypnotic-queen theatrics. It’s nowhere near as good as the original, but that’s not really the point, one suspects.
Still, all this was part of the foundations of the group’s debut. It is an album that still stands up today. Musically pretty tight with that bona fide late seventies post-punk sound; raw, brooding, teasingly surrealist. There’s the brash and bloodied form of psychedelic repetition in Suburban Relapse, the grungy Mirage is a surefire bit of punk-pop cockiness, and the title-track a mercurial, irregular slowburner with a fantastically parched and effecting guitar break, there to show that the group were more than a bunch of three-chord post-punk showy gothers.
Yep, this is still a cracking album.
‘The Scream’ was a Sioux-McKay-Morris-Severin production, and released on Polydor in the autumn / fall of 1978.