Wednesday, 22 September 2010

MY HIT LIST # 13 THE SCREAM

Siouxsie & the Banshees' debut LP the Scream was a jolt to the system when released, the suspicion was that the band would produce another record filled with 3 minute rants like the bandwagon jumping punk groups of the time. Anyone who had seen them live or heard their John Peel sessions knew that they where a different proposition altogether. They bided their time awaiting a suitable contract and didn't get signed up like most punk bands until 1978. By the time they got to the debut-LP proper, their sound had developed beyond the limitations of punk-rock, which wasn't that much of an advance on Chuck Berry or Eddie Cochran ultimately. The Scream is responsible for the sound later deemed post-punk, The Banshees weren't alone in this- but along with peers like Pere Ubu, Magazine, Suicide & Throbbing Gristle they moved the limited music of punk to a much darker and deeper sound and preceded more lauded acts such as The Cure, Joy Division & PIL.
A first single was released before the album the poptastic Hong Kong garden, not exactly like the album that followed.

The Scream could almost be the soundtrack to a David Lynch film and it is spartanly produced by Steve Lillywhite to create an open and brooding sound. An album that I dust off now and again, aware that music can be many things not just an uplifting experience.
1. "Pure" (McKay, Severin, Morris, Sioux)
2. "Jigsaw Feeling" (Severin, McKay)
3. "Overground" (Severin, McKay)
4. "Carcass" (Severin, Sioux, Fenton)
5. "Helter Skelter" (Lennon, McCartney)
6. "Mirage" (Severin, McKay)
7. "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" (McKay, Sioux)
8. "Nicotine Stain" (Severin, Sioux)
9. "Suburban Relapse" (McKay, Sioux)
10. "Switch" (McKay, Sioux

The album also served up a remarkably hysterical (in both senses of the word) review from Julie Burchill that is unlike any review of any album I have ever read. Here it is unedited

“WELL, WHATEVER WOULD EDVARD MUNCH HAVE SAID? Good-day, second-class of ‘78!
And now for the last goddam time in my life - I ask you, who wants to be David Bowie when they graduate? Hands up!
Kate - dear, you’re too maudlin and pretty and healthy, and the fathers fancy you more than the daughters do. Is that any way for a teen queen to be? Besides, you cover too many markets.
Howard - you don’t cover any, and anyhow you’re bald and "the kids" can’t "dance to it".
Japan and Ultravox! - I will NOT tolerate over made-up, non-starter gangs in my classroom!
Adam - you have the mark of the loser - sorry kid, not of exotic Cain - on you, and besides, you’re podgy.
Cherie - Cherie, how many times do I have to tell you, you should be in your cabaret class by now. Out, go on, take your twin with you and don’t ever let me see you outside of Las Vegas again!
Siouxsie - ah, Siouxsie, come up to the front here and show the boys and girls how it should be done.
One: must be skinny, wear a mass of make-up and look asexual enough to accommodate every closet’s ambivalent fantasies. Two: blind the critics with words and silence and all but a few ungrateful hack swine with long memories - who don’t understand and are NEVER gonna understand - will lick your soles for the privilege of sitting through an interview’s worth of verbal contempt from you. Three: flirt with the all-time contraband coquette that is fascism, however lightly (an armband, a salute, a sentence) and it will still get that ridiculously uncool but controversial minority going. Four: get out of your depth.
And I have come to hate glamour hangover (Bowie, Eno and Pop). They hang on and on. How I wish they would drop dead and take Miss Banshee with them, just to spare me this task. But what do I care? Because like all mod muse these days, Siouxsie and her Banshees’ll only end up being walked down a fashion-catwalk to be Marie Helvin Bailey. You’re all just making music for models to walk to, just reward and desserts for all you self-inflated pop stars.
So I don’t need my hatchet. Let’s bury it and get objective.
Factoid: since the Second World War retreated comfortably back into the realms of imagery, Germanic girls (or otherwise descended girls whom the liberated sicko mind can twist into being Teutonic) singing songs about death, doom and decay are very artistically credible.
Things I like about Siouxsie: "Hong Kong Garden"; the way she treats her audience like muck, knowing why the gross majority of them come to gape at her; I even kind of liked the way she danced on Top Of The Pops.
Fact: until recently Siouxsie And The Banshees included in their set a song they had written called "Love In A Void". This song featured the line "Too many Jews for my liking". This, says Siouxsie, was a metaphor for too many fat businessmen waiting to pounce, suck the youth from and cast aside new talent.
I do not see the connection. I, self-righteous square that I am, consider "Too many Jews for my liking" to be the most disgusting and unforgivable lyric-line ever written, though God knows there has been more appalling filth written within rockanroll than in every other branch of entertainment taken together.
None of it comes anywhere in sight of Siouxsie, though. She is well into her Twenties, so ignorant youth is no excuse, however lame. Therefore she must be either evil or retarded - well, can YOU think of any other way out? To shock? No - the pain and dreadful implications of this sentence could only be justified into a means of outrage by aforementioned retard.
Though I know that for a critic to tell the Banshees where to go is as de trop as liking, say, The Runways’ I am still particularly disgusted by the way the way Jewish writers (Viv Goldman) and otherwise extremely moral writers (Chris Brazier) have drooled over the silly cow, letting her get away with that line as long as she promises "Oh, it was an unwise choice, I’ll change it as soon as I can think of something better!"
Well take your shocking song and stick it up your rude white ass, Sioux, because here’s a review that don’t believe in running with the pack. Oh daddy please, pretty please, won’t you beat up that nasty girl and make her fade away? She hurts my ears and she bores me and the only reason she hasn’t been written off yet as a corny ‘art-rock’ act is that she once used to hang around some, ah, punk band.
Standing alone, the Banshee sound is a self-important threshing machine thrashing all stringed instruments down onto the same low level alongside that draggy sub-voice as it attempts futile eagle and dove swoops around the mono-beat. Their sound is certainly different from the normal guitar-bass-drums-voice consequence. But it’s radically stodgy as opposed to that light-fantastic Public Image trip on their single (bass-thump almost out of earshot, felt more as a vibration than heard as a sound, guitar getting as high and light as it takes to sound as little like a guitar hero as possible). Imagine that great sound then think of the exact opposite and you have Siouxsie And The Banshees: loud, heavy and levelling, the sound of suet pudding.
Start with an instrumental circa "Warsawza". Instrumentals are pretentious as shit, I don’t care who does them. Chuck Berry never felt the need to, so screw you, Sioux. Follow it with moody modern black-and-white ear-horror-films to impress the impressionable. The Banshees unite sub-glam flowering poesie ("Amorphus jigsaw pieces tra la la") with unpleasant but true sociology topics (going mental, self-mutilation, Fascism, cancer): subjects which have only been dealt with in any number by "punk". I am bored by and abhor the way the Banshees mess around with the two greatest genres of the decade and make both forms emerge bloodied, limping and sorely in need of a G.C.E. Eng Lang frame of reference.
I quite enjoyed singing along to "Helter Skelter" (least awful effort here, and even that was written elsewhere), and "carcass" got me a bit jittery until I saw the joke, giggled and yawned. The rest (barely) struck me as endless plain noise totally bereft of melody.
I just heard Sioux on Hullabaloo, whining away in that horrid Chislehurst-climber accent about how "Summer Nights" being Number One for seven weeks was actually brain-washing. Never mind, dear, you can always sleep guilt-free and tight at night in the sound knowledge that none of your recordings are ever going to put people in that loathsome position, huh?
I wish they were showing clips from that capitalist, corporation-made, youth-exploitation film Grease on the TV right now. I could do with some send-up, affectionate, Overground food for thought after sitting through all this "So I just sit in reverie/Getting on my nerves" wood-worm brain-rot hen-type-brooding from Siouxsie’s boys.
I’ll tell you what. I said I would be as objective as ‘tis possible for an intelligent person to be. So, against all odds (I hate her voice, her band, her image), I do think that Siouxsie could be quite a smart girl if only she didn’t work so hard at being marvellous for fools.
Her words for "Switch" and "Nicotine Stain" (she should write more lyrics alone) contain a certain germ which is rendered totally ineffectual via drone, pretension and conceit. Her words for the stunning "Suburban Relapse" are flawed only in the tune that John McKay sets it to, and, naturally, by the singularly awful Banshee sound.
Ah well, kid, take it to yourself and examine your subconscious. Maybe you’ll love it. Me, I keep seeing Siouxsie up there in her swastika armband making nothing but a fashion accessory out of the death of millions of people.
And I honestly don’t think that a rilly sensitive person like myself can ever see beyond that.”-Julie Burchill NME Nov 1978

Paul Morley, as do I, liked the album; here’s his succinct analysis

“Unlike anything in rock. It is not, as some would say, chaotic - it is controlled. Each instrument operates within its own space, its own time, as if mocking the lines of other instruments. Known rock is inverted, leaving just traces of mimickry of rock's cliches - satire that often bursts with glorious justification into shaking celebration (as on "Helter Skelter"). It is easy to gain attention by doing something which is crudely obviously out of the ordinary, but the Banshees have avoided such futile superficialities; it is innovation, not revolution, not a destruction but new building. It has grown out of rock - Velvets, "Station To Station", Bolan. And Siouxsie's staggering voice is dropped, clipped, snapped prominently above this audacious musical drama, emphasising the dark colours and empty, naked moods.”-Paul Morley NME Dec 1978
The young Siouxsie was a bit of a stroppy cow, although quite affable on camera she herself has spent most of her musical career pleasing herself, which I think is the punk thing to do. Possibly the one early fan who has actually kept performing independently with little compromise, from those naive days of 1976. Despite the notion that she is responsible for the whole Goth thing, from the springboard of this first album she continues to get on with making her type of music so fairplay I say to her. The seriousness of this first album sets a tone for a certain time and in that sense it is noteworthy.
The Scream,and indeed Siouxsie, a bit like Marmite then. And I like Marmite.

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having said that;

WELLISAIDTHAT