Siouxsie and the Banshees really found their sound with their 1981 album Juju. Here, everything was improved from the songwriting, to the music, and even the singing. The Banshees continued improving with their 1982 album A Kiss in the Dreamhouse. This is when the band were at their peak and could do no wrong. The Banshees continued to experiment with different sounds as they had on previous albums. It seems that the experimentation wasn’t present on their previous effort, but it makes a return here to make an interesting and exciting album.
Just as with their previous album, every song here is a hit. There isn’t a single track that makes you want to hit the skip button. The album opens with the addictive “Cascade.” Siouxsie sings her best here; she sounds sensual and her voice is really strong. There’s also that great repeating, sinister sounding guitar riff during the intro that continues throughout. Here, the band shows they have not left behind their dark roots thanks to the creepy lyrics. The one line that sticks out in my mind is “My chest was full of eels, pushing through my usual skin.” Just thinking about the image makes you shudder.
Another creepy track is “Obsession.” It’s dark, haunting, and chilling. Dealing with the subject of becoming unhealthily obsessed with someone, Siouxsie sings with little accompaniment, which adds to the creepy feeling. You can hear heavy breathing and tolling church bells as she sings. While the whole song is disturbing, the second verse is the worse: “I broke into your room – I broke down in my room/Touched your belongings there – and left a lock of my hair/Another sign for you.” What makes that line so creepy is it seems like an attempt to normalize the behavior. This is emphasized when the violin comes on during the musical break. The music here sounds somber, as if it’s trying to sympathize with this person. The way the music spirals out of control towards the end could represent the breakdown the person is experiencing.
Songs like “Green Fingers” and “Cocoon” don’t have the Gothic influences or dark overtones like the other tracks on the album. The former tune has a folksy feel to it with its pan flutes playing throughout. Also, the way it talks about a girl who is either in love with nature or some type of forest fairy gives it a 60’s vibe. It’s still enjoyable even though it doesn’t have that dark rock vibe. The latter song sounds like a jazz tune from the 40’s that should be playing in some smokey bar. It has a cool slinky beat, like a cat sneaking up on you and it sounds like you should be constantly snapping your fingers to the beat. This track stands out the most on the album and even alludes to what Siouxsie would later do with her band The Creatures.
One of my favorite songs and one that the Banshees always included in their live set is “Painted Bird.” This track has great energy and also has this jumping rhythm that makes you want to get up and dance. Once again, the guitar work is great here. It’s sad to think that John McGeoh would leave the band shortly after the release of this album. It’s the most upbeat song on the album and probably the catchiest. What’s interesting about the track is during the second verse you can faintly hear birds chirping while Siouxise sings. Also, there are small references to Hitchcock. Unless you are familiar with the book The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinksi, you will have no idea what the track is about. According to the singer, the song is based off of this book.
Another one of my favorite songs here is the odd and trippy “Circle.” It begins with this looping music that sounds like it’s being played backwards. It gives the song a dizzy tone and feel. We find here more gruesome and violent images in the lyrics: “Father inflicts discipline — boy rebels against him/He leaves for the big town — for love and adventure/But the words he first heard — unlike his instincts run deeper/Now boy beats his children — if they disobey him/And the cat riddled with worms — chases his tail round.” The line about the cat always sticks with me long after the song is over. This track seems to be about how our lives are one big cycle and unless we do something to try and change it, we’re going to end up in an unwanted situation. The song is memorable for its strange sound as it is for its weird video, where Robert Smith is obviously high out of his mind.
This album may still have some dark sound in it, but when compared to their last album this is seems to have more pop influences, with the catchy riffs, hooks, and also by adding in different instruments, such as tambourines and chimes. This is most heard in “She’s A Carnival” and “Slowdive.” Both songs have fast beats and rhythms to get you moving. They’re both also really catchy to sing along to. The latter song even sounds like a command to do a dance called “slowdive” when Siouxsie sings “Do the slowdive, when you die slow.” Though they slightly changed their direction when looking at sound, it works for the band. They make their dark subjects and twisted lyrics catchy and fun to sing and dance to.
Overall, this album gets 9/10. It is one of their best albums to date where all the songs are great. They’re catchy, great to sing along with, and great to dance to. The band is really at their peak here. Siouxsie’s voice still sounds great and the magnificent John McGeoh is still laying down the guitar riffs. They go back to their early days when they experimented with their sound more and while some of the songs may seem odd on the first listen they will definitely grown on the listener.