Released September 1979
If anything, this was an even darker album than the debut album from the previous year, The Scream and it was an album that tore the band apart, guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris quitting the group on the day of the album's release. Funnily enough that was not the body blow one may have imagined, as replacements John McGeoch and Budgie proved to be be an essential part of The Banshees on subsequent, career-defining albums. Despite this internal strife, there is still and edgy appeal to this genre-leading post-punk album. Already, by 1979, punk was old hat and sombre, industrial post punk was de rigeur. This album was right at the vanguard.
1. Poppy Day
2. Regal Zone
3. Placebo Effect
5. Premature Burial
6. Playground Twist
7. Mother /Oh Mein Papa
8. The Lord's Prayer
The opener, Poppy Day, was inspired by The First World War and Remembrance Day. It is a short track featuring industrial, harsh guitars and some vague chant-like vocals. Regal Zone surely influenced U2's first album with its dense, caustic guitar sound, pounding drum beat and Siouxsie Sioux's sonorous vocals. There is a punk attitude and raw edginess to this, but it has that dark, intense post punk feeling all over it. This is music for the terminally depressive. Music for dark November evenings. There is some great, sharp guitar and drum interplay at the end. The dour, factory-inspired industrial sound continues on the haunting obscurity of Placebo Effect. Sioux's sombre, wailing vocals give it a perversely miserable feeling that is at the same time incredibly evocative and atmospheric.
Icon begins slowly and almost chant-like before the drums start to roll and Sioux's stream of consciousness lyrics are relentless in their Patti Smith stylings. The drum, bass and guitar interplay is impressive. There was a real punch to this stuff despite its terminally dismal ambience meaning that I do not return to it too often. The old "side one" is closed by the primal thumping density of Premature Burial. The guitars crash and burn, endlessly, the drums pound, the voice wails and rants. By now life is looking pretty depressing. Don't play this on a bright summer's morning. Despite all that, it still really has something. A bit like the first Joy Division album. Appealing in its sheer never-ending gloom. Siouxsie Sioux wrote all these songs. She must have been a bundle of laughs on a night out.
Playground Twist was a single, but it did not have the catchy appeal of Hong Kong Garden and only reached number 28. It is as singalong and commercial as the material on this album ever gets, with a few hooks and refrains swirling around. Mother/Oh Mein Papa is a spooky incantation with a musical box backing and oedipal lyrics. The final track is the controversial, fifteen minutes long The Lord's Prayer, a Sex Pistols/Public Image-style grind that served to sum up the anti-faith nihilism of the punk movement for many people. Sioux wails out the words to The Lord's Prayer over a frantic guitar riff backing and thumping drum beat. It is a marvellously anarchic piece of anti-establishment protest. Punk meets post punk in a maelstrom of subversive negativity as the rumbling bass drills its incessant madcap rhythm into your head. Sioux starts clucking like a chicken at one stage as she goes full on Patti Smith now, spitting out God knows what invective. Horrifying, interminable, but strangely compelling, as indeed is the whole album. Siouxsie & The Banshees would never be as visceral, or as brutal, again.