By now you can tell the Banshees are not shy to experiment with their music, but this release is their strangest. For one Robert Smith of The Cure joined the band at this time and his presence is felt throughout the album. Also, this is where the group varies their music the most. Rather than focusing on intense guitar riffs, the songs sound whimsical and light with the addition of keyboards and saxophones. It’s definitely a strange record, but with this odd line up the Banshees managed to release a great album.
Cureheads know that 1984 was a strange and dangerous year for Robert Smith. I won’t go into details, but it’s at this time he was working on both material for the Banshees and The Cure, so it’s no surprise that his influence is heard on so many of the tracks here. The one where it comes through the most is “Swimming Horses.” The trailing piano lead and the light, playful guitar riff that introduces the song has Smith written all over it. It sounds so much like his style that you think he ripped it from one of his records. Regardless, the music catches your attention. It’s a great, if odd song with strong drawn out vocals from Siouxsie Sioux; it displays her voice so well. Another track where Smith’s input is heard is “Bring Me the Head of the Preacher Man.”
This is another really odd song that plays out like some sort of Western. But the exotic like music and the random saxophone that comes in during the bridge is reminiscent of “Wailing Wall” from The Top. Otherwise, it’s an oddly seductive song with Siouxsie sounding hypnotic as she repeats “you’re mine/you’re mine/you’re all mine.” It sounds like she’s trying to put you under a spell. There’s a lot going on in this song and it’s almost too much to catch in one sitting, but that’s what keeps it interesting. It’s something you don’t mind listening to again to catch every little bit.
This album is unlike anything the band has done before. It’s very experimental with a lot of the songs sounding light and upbeat. “Dazzle” begins unexpectedly with string music. It sounds very pretty and sophisticated. Even when the pace picks up the strings are heard in the background and it keeps the classic vibe. The music overall is really great; it’s fun, catchy, and something that gets you moving. The song title feels really appropriate for music; it seems to shimmer and shine. But here we see the band has not given up their love of dark lyrics. There are morbid lyrics, such as “Swallowing diamonds/A cutting throat/Your teeth when you grin/Reflecting beams on tombstones.” Lines like this present weird, dark images in your mind while you’re listening to the song and it happens again and again on the album.
“Pointing Bone” is an upbeat track with more violent images in the lyrics, which is something the Banshees do best: “And a slaughter grins, on a pleasure spike/When held on high by the riverside/Like a torn-throat child in a jackals hide/Cool water dies, vile diamond eyes.” This gives you a chilling, yet interesting vision to go along with the music. And what’s interesting about the music here is it sounds the most like their old punk material with the harsh guitars. The closing track “Blow the House Down” begins weird with ambient noises and almost ethereal vocals from Siouxsie, but it’s the most intriguing song. The music sounds really exotic, as if it were inspired from Indian culture and the lyrics sound like they were influenced by fairy tales. Throughout the song Sioux sings about a “caterpillar man,” “crumbling castles,” “the wicker man,” and of course “blow the house down.” It’s a flat out weird song, but in the best kind of way. There’s even one part where the music sounds like squealing demons set on fire. With the music and conviction in Siouxsie’s voice, it sounds like she’s casting the most evil spell.
“Take Me Back” is another cool track with a psychedelic-Jazz fusion vibe to it. There’s an odd sounding keyboard that dominates the song. Since it sounds like something from a 70’s rock song at times it’s cheesy, but it still manages to be catchy. It’s sounds like something you would find in a song by The Doors. Yet, it still sounds like something Smith would put in one of his songs. While all of the tracks are good, the one that falls flat is “Belladonna.” The music is light and whimsical, which puts you in a relaxed mood. This isn’t bad, but there isn’t much else to the song. And with Siouxsie repeating “Belladonna” throughout the chorus it gets dull after a while. It’s not a horrible tune, but something you have to be in the right mood to listen to it.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. Though it may be the weirdest album the band has released, it’s still really good. The songs are catchy and still filled with music that makes you want to dance. For any Cure fan this is a must have as his presence is heard throughout the record. It’s definitely their most experimental album with whimsical, light riffs taking over for harsh guitars. It may be weird and odd, but it at least shows how innovative and bold the Banshees are with their music.