Imagine, if you would, that there is a somewhat controversial band out there. They are being regularly written about and feted by the music press but they are as yet unsigned to any record label. The only way you could get to hear them would be to go to one of their (mainly) London based club gigs or, and let this sink in once you’ve read it, by listening to Radio One !
For that is the position those of us not old enough to schlep down to London to see them found ourselves in, the only way we could hear Siouxsie & The Banshees in 1977 was by listening to the sessions they were recording for John Peel’s late night Radio One show. Could you imagine Radio One even considering that idea now ? John Peel even lobbied to get BBC Records (home of the themes to Dr Who, Grandstand, Goon Show classics and those sound effects albums to which The Jam paid homage with “Sound Affects”) to sign them. So when they finally did get scooped up by Polydor and released “The Scream” in 1978 it was a pretty big deal.
The album was preceded by the single “Hong Kong Garden” which was something of an impressive debut. But the album was another thing altogether. The Banshees had been together and gigging now for 2 years. Knowing what I know now the band had used those 2 years to get better, write new songs and these were what they wanted the world to hear, not just stuff from 2 years ago. So while the songs from the Peel sessions were here (Overground, Carcass, Suburban Relapse, Mirage and Metal Postcard) there were newer, more intricate songs that were a step on from those.
Strangely the album opens in a similar fashion to “The B-52’s” kinda fading in with non-vocal female voice(s) in an almost operatic style. Then we are hurled into the thundering “Jigsaw Feeling” a real tour de force of a song to open with. In between here and the end we get the Peel session favourites, a spiky cover of The Beatles, the albums one low point “Nicotine Stain” and then there is the closing, almost 7 minutes long (sacrilege in Punk-dom) “Switch”. It starts slow, it speeds up it jumps around in tempo and style and never does it feel like it is 7 minutes long. This band hand spent 2 years we’ll, moved on from the Punk maelstrom and were going to very interesting places (to be continued…)