Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Siouxsie & the Banshees - Peepshow (1988)

I picked up Superstition the other week, which sent me retracing my footsteps back to this one which then duly glued itself to the turntable. This is probably some sort of reverence feedback deficit due to my not having thought about Siouxsie & the Banshees for a long, long time squared with how highly I once rated them, and continue to rate them as I now realise. I'd forgotten how great they were.

I'm doubtless misremembering, but I recall more of a kerfuffle over Siouxsie having had a haircut than the release of this record, which less forgiving persons seem to recall as having belonged to the oh, are they still going? years. Tinderbox - the one before this, excepting the covers thing - was an odd collection thematically fixated on heat, deserts, dessication, and sterility building up to the climax of Lands End, the closing song seemingly representing a symbolic deluge. It felt a bit like they were aware of running short on inspiration, although it was actually a pretty great album - just not startling like its predecessors. This was the point at which the Banshees chug had begun to creep in, having begun with Dazzle or thereabouts - those driving tracks which sound a bit like Russian folk music, and which I suppose came to represent default Banshees - stuff to which goths could whirl around and do that silly dance where they make their hands swim back and forth in front of their faces. Tinderbox, for all its fine points, was mostly generic Banshees chug.

Peepshow chugged here and there, but you can really tell they're also pissing about, throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck, and most importantly stepping outside the goth comfort zone - which makes sense given that there were about a million other bands who had photocopied the same blueprint by this point; and they had yet another new guitarist - the bloke out of Specimen, oddly enough, which seems kind of like doing a Numan and marrying your own groupie, but Jon Klein seems to have been an undeniably decent match.

The Banshees were no longer quite the group which had recorded The Scream, but that's progress for you. Peepshow is nevertheless startling and angular in places, with a technical velour developed over the previous few albums but kept from becoming bland or gratuitously lush by what sounds like the band rebelling against their own tendency to chug. Peek-a-Boo sounds peculiarly like the Rolling Stones briefly funky period; there's the ludicrous and yet wonderful Burn Up which could have been the Casey Jones theme tune; and then The Last Beat of My Heart which gets my vote for possibly the most heart-wrenching piece of music ever recorded, definitely one of the greatest things the Banshees ever did, and it features an accordion for fuck's sake! Only the cock-obvious nursery horror of Rawhead and Bloodybones really lets the side down, sounding like it might have been an acceptable b-side a few years earlier, but even in '88 resembled the sort of generic goth landfill upon which Tim Burton would eventually build a career. Maybe they were taking the piss.

Anyway, Peepshow is mostly amazing. I'm a little surprised that I somehow managed to forget.

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