I have a strange ‘love / hate’ relationship with Siouxsie and the Banshees. Actually ‘hate’ is too strong a word. It’s more of a ‘love / oooh dear!’ relationship. I made a piss-poor goth in the mid eighties. I guess my heart wasn’t really into being miserable. But Siouxsie had such a unique and hypnotic voice I kept getting drawn back. When I heard the song Cities in Dust off the Tinderbox album, I thought it was one of the most intoxicating collections of sounds I had ever heard, melded into one song. But generally my incursions into Banshees territory were a mixture of frustration and unease.
Years later, in 1992, Siouxsie toured Australia, playing at the Metro Nightclub in Melbourne (the venue is now known as The Palace). I am not really sure why I wanted to go, but I did. And I am truly glad that I did. I think at that brief moment of time, where my head was musically, and where the Siouxsie and the Banshees were musically, coincided. If you’ll forgive the gushing hyperbole, it was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever been to (look it was almost twenty years ago and I am still talking about it – it must have been good!)
I stood in the one spot, transfixed for the whole evening. I was so mesmerizing I forgot to drink. Back in those days, and at the age I was, it was the riggeur de jour to get totally trashed at any concert. But my mind was else where – it was on stage – listening to these beautiful, worldly, ethereal sounds.
The album that the tour was promoting – if my memory serves me right – was Twice Upon a Time, which is a compilation album – a greatest hits if you will. In fact it was the second greatest hits package that the Banshees had put out, as Once Upon a Time had been released several years previously. In keeping, the concert tour was a presentation of this second era of Banshee hits.
With a band like Siouxsie and the Banshees, the words ‘greatest hits’ present a strange conundrum. In Australia, they certainly didn’t get much air play on radio – maybe the community radio stations and Triple J – but nothing on a rotation basis. Their songs didn’t chart either (maybe Face to Face off the Batman Returns soundtrack edged into the top 40, but I doubt it). The Banshees’ most commercial (for that read ‘radio friendly) fodder is probably their cover versions of other material, such as The Beatles, Dear Prudence, Dylan’s This Wheel’s on Fire, and Iggy Pop’s The Passenger. I think somewhere along the way they also covered The Door’s You’re Lost Little Girl (I can’t be sure on that, I don’t have a copy). Personally, I think that their covers are their weakest numbers – and they never got any air play either). So, in this instance, when I say ‘greatest hits’, it means the singles released by the band between 1982 and 1992.
So if the concert performance was the main course, then the CD, Twice Upon a Time was the doggy bag – the take home pack. But the songs are certainly not reheated leftovers. The CD opens with the quasi orchestral sounds on Fireworks, then moves through to the pounding raw drum beat in Slowdive. This is followed up by the appropriately languid Melt, moving through to their swirling psychedelic version of Dear Prudence. Along the way there’s the military staccato drum coupled with a sharp violin riff on Overground; Cities in Dust, which sound like synth pop banging on sheet metal; Candyman’s guitar pop sound; the bouncing brass and accordion sound on Peek-a-boo. Appropriately, on the CD is a live version of The Last Beat of My Heart (recorded in Seattle at Lollapallooza in 1991), the song being an absolute show-stopper. The album rides out with Siouxsie and the Banshees experimenting with temple dancing and techno dance beats. As you can see, with the myriad of musical styles dished up, they are a band that was hard to categorize. And one that never stood still for long.
As much as I loved the concert and loved this album, it is probably right that after it, Siouxsie and I should have parted ways. If she had put out more music that pandered to my particular musical tastes and quirks, that would have indicated that she and the band were stagnating and repeating themselves. By trying new things, the kept themselves relevant and kept the music fresh.
That’s what I meant by the love / hate relationship. I love Siouxsie and the Banshees, but I can’t enjoy all their music. But that’s okay. That’s what’s great about them. They went here, there and everywhere and gave the world a lot of music – and that has to be a good thing.