The 1981 album by Siouxsie and the Banshees is their best so far. This is where the Banshees really found their niche, where they find their classic sound. They stepped away from the electronic sounds they experimented with in their last album and returned to fierce guitars provided by John McGeoch. The guitar work is really excellent on this album. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad before, but it’s just improved here. Something about the way he plays really adds to this dark album.
Whereas on the other albums where there would be a handful of songs that were good and another handful that were just okay or bad, every song on this album is fantastic. Every song is memorable, catchy and yet there is something unique about each one as well. One of the best tracks on the album is “Arabian Knights.” It has this great foreign or Eastern feel to it thanks to the guitar work of McGeoch. This song really stands out from the rest due to the unique sound and the interesting subject.
Another great, but gruesome song is “Head Cut.” This is definitely one of those songs where you have to read the lyrics to really appreciate the track. This is another dark track that’s filled with some disturbing, weird details and images that you can picture a little too clearly in your head: “Oh severed head/I’ll feed your head with bread/And paint your lips bright red/I’ll keep it fresh on ice, It will look very nice.” The person here is obviously obsessed with collecting heads and putting them on some demented display. The violent images are easy to miss because the music is so upbeat. This song really shows what an amazing songwriter Siouxsie is. She paints what is going on here in such great detail that you see it all, whether you want to or not. This is truly madness and chaos contained in this song.
Really, all of the songs are great here. It’s one of those albums that you can leave on and be happy with every track that comes on. The opening song “Spellbound” gets the album started on the right track with it’s awesome subtle energy that’ll have you moving. It has this great racing beat along with an amazing guitar riff. It’s actually a really creepy song that seems to talk about a descent into madness. Another awesome dark song is “Halloween.” The jarring, jumping guitar riff matches the spooky tone here. What’s great about it is that while it may be dark, it’s still energetic and something that’ll get you moving in your seat. And while “Sin in My Heart” relies on repetition for the lyrics, it’s still a dark, jarring classic for the band.
One song that really stands out is the closing track “Voodoo Dolly.” Aside from “Head Cut,” this has to be one of the darkest tracks here. It’s a really creepy song with high pitched, looping music that sounds like it’s mapping out your insanity. Even the slow build up from silently singing to yelling uncontrollably suggests that this person is going crazy. The story mapped out in the lyrics sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone: “Now this little voodoo dolly has made you very lazy/and you’re anemic from her sucking/and when your dead she’ll find another.” It’s a chilling song that’ll make you think twice about all those dolls in your grandmother’s house.
This truly is a dark album even if the music itself is pretty energetic and upbeat. But you really need to take the time and look at the lyrics to understand what is going on here. A lot of the songs are filled with instances of murder, grisly images of decapitation and death, and much more. Take a look at the excellent track “Night Shift.” You can feel the darkness from the beginning of the song with the menacing intro riff that starts this track. This unnerving feeling continues in the song with the way Siouxsie sings and the weird noises that play out in the background. Everything in this song really works to achieve the dangerous tone and feeling of this song.
Previously, I mentioned that more Gothic influences were sneaking into the band. Here they have basically taken over the entire album. The lyrics, the themes, and the music all emit this dark tone and mood that takes over this record. The punk influences are not entirely gone, but they are not as big of an influence as it was on the previous albums and it’s a refreshing direction for the band. It is a Gothic record, but it’s not dark, brooding, or depressing. Rather, it sounds like a soundtrack for some gruesome horror movie.
On the topic of singing, Siouxsie has really found her sound on this album and it is one that would continue on for the rest of the Banshees career. She doesn’t shriek out or yell the lyrics to the songs on this record. She actually sings and shows the unique and awesome power of her voice. There are even some songs where her voice sounds absolutely haunting. Just listen to how she embellishes in “Monitor” or how she lets the words trail off her tongue in “Arabian Knights.” It will make shivers run through your skin.
Overall this album gets 9.5/10. This is my favorite Banshees album by far. Everything works here. All the songs are great, there’s this awesome creepy feeling present throughout the entire record, the guitar work is at it’s best and Siouxsie’s singing is finally under control. This is where they found their classic sound that would follow them on the rest of their albums. This is one of their best if not the best album the Banshees have put out.