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Speakers' corner
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Kaleidoscope

Following up our retro scope series of 2006 and 2007 - here's the New Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves/vaults of rock. This moonth the Lunar spotlight has caught an album turning 30 years old - released August 1st 1980. The third go from a pale faced, dark clothed and black haired gang - making it hard to belive they're up for casting coloured, beautiful forms. I goth you, babe.

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Siouxsie and the Banshees
Kaleidoscope
Polydor

'And then there was Siouxsie and the Banshees, fastidious, burnt out children of the night who prayed, bled and frosted into view just as punk was making a name for itself, so that for a while it seemed as if they were a punk group, inarticulate and messy, riled and random. They were beyond punk, beyond labelling, even as they were playing punk venues and supporting punk groups with an urgent, noisy commitment to expressing their idea of style that to early witnesses seemed as punk, as untortured, angry and unruly as anything.'

The above is taken from the start of Paul Morley's comprehensive essay in the booklet of the Banshees CD Voices On The Air, The Peel Sessions released in 2006. It is as accurate a description of the early days of the band as can be, I guess. And with Kaleidoscope, released 30 years ago this moonth, it was obvious that Siouxsie And The Banshees were way beyond punk. It was the first time the band experimented with synthesizers and drums box and the songs were, to some extent, softer than earlier. Gone were John McKay's razor-sharp guitars of the stunning debut album The Scream, in fact gone was John McKay himself along with drummer Kenny Morris. Remaining Siouxsie Sioux (icy vocals) and Steven Severin (bass) persuaded Budgie from The Slits to join on drums and Robert Smith from The Cure stood in on guitar on a tour in the autumn of 1979 (and he returned in 1983). By the beginning of 1980 when they were to start recording the third album, the band still needed a permanent guitarist. Instead Steve Jones of Sex Pistols fame and John McGeogh of Magazine and Visage fame guested on guitar on three and five songs of the album respectively.

Banshees was always a great singles band, punctuative pop songs with a twist and mainly gloomy lyrics. The two obvious catchiest songs on Kaleidoscope were also released on singles prior to the album release. "Happy House" with a wonderful entwined bass and McGeoch-guitar intro ('We've come to scream in the happy house, We're in a dream in the happy house, We're all quite sane') and the even catchier "Christine" ('the strawberry girl, banana split lady, 22 faces... disintegrating'). Two excellent examples off the Banshees singles canon! The other songs of the album need more spins before they start to grow, but eventually they do, and keep doing. Not least the two minimalistic "Lunar Camel" (always a favourite here at our Kafé, obviously!) with rhythm box, bass with flanger effect and that Arabian feel (also due to Siouxsie's droma-derian, whatever that may be?) and "Red Light", ominous with the sound of the rhythm box and buzz of a camera up front. The highlight, though, is probably "Desert Kisses", another Arabian-tinged song with hints in direction of Velvet Underground's colossal "Venus In Furs", too, where McGeoch even plays sitar! It creeps slowly under the skin... Despite the album title and the use of sitar, the album is not a psychedelic one, far from it!

It seems McGeoch managed to develop his own guitar playing and raise the Banshees to a new level during the recordings of Kaleidoscope. Also, he was asked to join the band and he stayed on until late 1982 for two more and even greater albums, Juju (1981) and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse (1982). Along with the debut, the three albums with the late John McGeoch manifest Siouxsie And The Banshees at their creative peak.

Copyright © 2010 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Siouxsie & the Banshees article/review: Juju.

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