Among the many anniversaries that have proliferated, one seems to have escaped us: The 40th anniversary of when Siouxsie and the Banshees first formed. (Unless if you made a Facebook event about it.) In light of this, it's worth celebrating, even if it's a year late. If you've never heard of the legendary post-punk band, here are some tracks to help get you started:
The first thing is the groove that two of the core members, bassist Steve Severin and drummer Budgie, establish and get rolling. Then the guitar part (they went through so many guitarists): ominous, alluring, strange-sounding. The whole thing is magnificent, topped off by Siouxsie Sioux's heavy, portentous vocal that could summon the dead with a single note. The lyrics are heavy on imagery, and quite evocative. (Allmusic has excellent reviews of their work; check it out.)
If "Israel" was enticing with its darkness, "Arabian Knights" is relatively frightening. The guitar parts are even more tense, Siouxsie's voice throws in seething anger with the heaviness, and the overall thing isn't for the faint of heart. This style wouldn't last for the band, however.
The music video cut is shorter and hits harder; nonetheless, this track (with guitar work by Robert Smith of The Cure!) is terrific. Opening with a lovely string track, Siouxsie's voice is at its best as she throws out imagery that doesn't connect into a coherent narrative but sounds great. The music also makes its case, mixing string stabs with droning guitar, and Budgie's unique drum track. Hold on, we're just getting started.
It's so propulsive, catchy, and listener-friendly, that it makes you wonder why it didn't become a Top 40 hit stateside. Granted, its subject matter (evoking the horrific eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii) isn't usually the stuff of pop radio. Regardless, Siouxsie's elastic vocal, combined with the pummeling music, makes for a classic track.
Siouxsie and the Banshees were no strangers to covers; they made their first big splash by doing an infamous version of "The Lord's Prayer", and even an entire album to covers. One of those covers: "Trust in Me" from The Jungle Book. You read right: the song that Kaa sings. This version stands on its own, with Siouxsie purring and seducing any listener that comes her way. The music is equally seductive, with Budgie's drums and a harp making the biggest impressions.
Somehow, out of their entire discography, this song was the first of theirs to crack the Billboard Hot 100. No matter: this classic deserved that honor. The history behind it is fascinating, and the music lives up to it. The track is impossible to not dance to, with a accordion thrown in and the drum track utterly brilliant. Siouxsie's vocal alternates between insidious musings to shrieks, and is a powerhouse throughout. Bonus: their terrific music video.
Their only U.S. Top 40 hit, it nonetheless deserved to make its mark. The title being lifted from the Jayne Mansfield movie of the same name (and the lyrics depicting her and the car crash that killed her), the music is so enveloping that it's impossible to escape. It's one of the best pop songs they ever made, and Siouxsie is so composed, it makes you wonder if they didn't replace her with someone else. Aided by a lush music video, it's a classic.
That's a good introduction. Are there songs you wish were represented in this list? Leave them in the comment section. Until then, listen to your heart's content!