Siouxsie And The Banshees - Join Hands

Siouxsie And The Banshees
Join Hands

Released 1979 on Polydor
Reviewed by Lawrence, 10/09/2004ce

Siouxsie and the Banshees were a bit different from most of the other London punk bands. Still as stripped-down and minimalist as, say, the Sex Pistols, but nothing else in common musically. Always aiming at something a bit more sinister and enigmatic, often using minor chords and diminished scales. And Siouxsie's lyrics managing an intellectual jaundiced view of the world that can sometimes rival Johnny Rotten's, but also having an eerie, almost Grimm's Fairy Tales style poesy filtered through Edward Gorey. Example: "A tourist oasis -- reflects in seedy sunshades a monstrous oil tanker, its wound bleeding in seas". Of course that's from the Juju album and not the one discussed here...

This was their second album, which I arguably believe is the best, although it isn't often one says that about a band's second effort. The musical inventiveness here goes further from The Scream. It is a shame that John McKay and Kenny Morris left this group in acrimony right afterwards, as they both played a big part in this version of the Banshees in my opinion. McKay's simple but inventive and strategic guitar combined with Morris' martial-influenced playing and Siouxsie's incendiary vocals, which often (although this may sound long-winded) has the aura of a herotic Joan Of Arc-style warrior, athough she would herself sneer at such a comparison. Of course alot of people say she isn't really a singer, but since this is punk rock, who cares really?

"Poppy Day" starts this work spectacularily with a metronome pulse offset by a massive, almost kettle-style drum. Next track is "Regal Zone", the lyrics credited to a John McCrae (McKay?) and it's the usual theme of political oppression, although this is a bit more macabre and archaic. But not really the stronger part of the record...

But on to "Placebo Effect", an eloquently searing indictment of quack cures and medical malpractice. McKay does a sheet-metal harmonic effect with his strings and Siouxsie does some of her best phrasing here.

"Icon" is another attack aimed at social decay -- this time organised religion and blind faith. "My eyes went up to heaven/ you didn't say I'd be blind without them." Inconguously Morris' drumming makes this track sound like a riotous Roman battle-anthem.

"Premature Burial" is the centerpiece here. Suggests some kind of nihilistic denial of any kind of sociality at all, maybe even to the point of being about scizophenia. "I'm not your sister or your brother/don't bury me with this/join hands--join hands/we're all sisters and brothers/sisters and brothers/I can't relate to you/you're no relation to mine".

"Playground Twist" seems like a warmup for the similarily Hitchcockian giddiness of "Spellbound". Kinda reminds me of being on the turnaround at the playground (natch!) and feeling dizzy and sick afterwards, which is probably the intended effect.

"Mother" is downright painful to listen to. Musically this is just a music box playing "Oh Mein Papa" with some industrial/environmental sounds in the background, with Siouxsie's double-tracked vocals alternately singing positive and negative opinions about mothers. I always thought there was something spooky about music boxes anyways, not just in that they seem to have a life of their own but how they seem to metaphysically connect to childhood and the accompanying memories and emotions. This track sounds disturbingly personal.

The last track is simply a re-working of "The Lords Prayer" -- the scandalous first performance of the Banshees, and probably played like it was originally. I'm guessing this is mostly live in the studio except some of the vocals sound multi-tracked. Apt way to end here...

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