Friday, 8 June 2018

Siouxsie & The Banshees - Peepshow (1988)


  

Released September 1988

This is actually my favourite Siouxsie & The Banshees album. Almost ten years after their debut, it sees the band diversify, musically, and also vocally in ways that they never had before. It wasn't just bleak industrial guitars and Siouxsie's trademark post punk haughty wail (atmospheric as some of those recordings could undoubtedly be), there was multi-instrumentalism on here, jazzy, swing and pop stylings and a generally lighter, more accessible feel that was, to be honest, a breath of fresh air. Indeed, many journalists at the time heralded it as The Banshees' finest hour, and it has aged well, still being retrospectively considered with the same reverence.

Opening with the swirling, slightly Russian-influenced in places (or was it Cajun?) , shuffling drum, accordion and keyboards maelstrom of the beguiling yet rhythmic "Peek-A-Boo". Siouxsie's voice is instantly different, channelled into coming out of different speakers in different tones, this is a revelation. Impossibly catchy, it is one of my favourite Siouxsie tracks of all. Mysterious, wacky and highly enjoyable all at once. It is as "fun" and mischievous as the band have ever sounded.

"The Killing Jar" has an almost reggae-style intro and an alluring backing. Where there is a difference is that, often, in the past, drummer Budgie would lock on to one beat/rhythm and stick with it and the guitars would swirl around it. Here it all changes. We get changes of pace, of rhythm, of general approach. All sorts of instrumental nuances. The same applies to Siouxsie's voice. It has seductive qualities never really heard before. That trademark guitar comes in at the end of this track, but not before there have all sorts of other instrumental ins and outs.

"Scarecrow" is a slow-build up, intoxicating brew of jungle sounds, weird percussion before it kicks in to a more recognisable Banshees' stomp and a vocal more as you would expect, but just as you get used to that, there is a laid back bass, stark keyboard and voice part that changes the atmosphere. "Carousel" is a sparsely-backed but interesting slow, mournful number that just sort of washes over you until it bursts, via some powerful, insistent drumming into life three minutes in. Then it ends, adding to its mystery. "Burn Up" is wonderful - again, something Cajun about it and another number that sees the band up for having lively fun in the way they rarely had before. Fantastic drumming on this one and sombre old "high priestess" Siouxsie sounding like it is the first time she has ever let herself lighten the mood. You can almost hear her smiling in her joyful vocal. It is a pleasure to listen to. Nice one.

"Ornaments Of Gold". Wow. Mandolin and acoustic guitars and a seductive percussion groove intro that features some familiar vocals but so many other nuances and sounds in it that, again, it can almost sound like a different band. The appealing "Turn To Stone" would appear to feature flamenco guitar and some unusual percussion backing. Siouxsie would do more material like this on her later solo albums. Again, this track features a lighter, more versatile vocal. "Rawhead And Bloody Bones" is a return in atmosphere to the old gothic times, but there is again an instrumental experimentation on here, with its weird backing, that is pretty unique to this album and onwards.

"The Last Beat Of My Heart" is almost like a valedictory poem from John Donne or someone of that ilk. It is a haunting, mesmerising instrumental, atmospheric and vocal triumph from Siouxsie and the band. Probably her finest vocal performance to date. It is almost as if, after ten years, she's saying goodbye. Not the case, but it feels like it. Definitely one of her career high points. The lengthy, melodious and goth-rock in parts "Rhapsody", with its addictive, insistent guitar sound, more Russian influence and lyrical references and Siouxsie's relentless but baleful voice (with some impressive high parts in places) ends things off perfectly, although I feel "The Last Beat Of My Heart" should have been the closer.

B

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