“Kaleidoscope” by Siouxsie and The Banshees - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1980Album Chart of the Decade: 1980s

TJR says

Guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris had walked out mid-tour in September '79, but the Banshees recovered well, enlisting the help of The Cure's guitarist Robert Smith and The Slits drummer, Budgie, to fulfill the dates. So well did the drummer fit that his move became permanent. Renowned session man about town John McGeoch was invited along to work with the group in the studio early in 1980. Like Budgie, his move became permanent: “I was going through a picky phase, as opposed to strumming. 'Happy House' was lighter and had more musicality in it. They invited me to join. I was sad leaving Magazine but the Banshees were so interesting and it felt like a good move.” Perhaps mindful of future revolts, Siouxsie herself had been learning how to play guitar and did so on a couple of the tracks. The new-look four were: Siouxsie Sioux (23, vocals, guitars, synthesizer, melodica), Steven Severin (24, bass guitar, vocals, piano, synthesizer, electric sitar), Budgie (22, drums, percussion, harmonica) and John McGeoch (24, guitar, saxophone, organ, sitar, string synth). As Siouxsie would later comment: “It was almost a different band, like a new lease of life, Banshees – phase two!” Banshees phase two were very well received by the critics and by record buyers.

By the time of the album's release in August, 1980, two classic hit singles had been delivered from it. Opening the album is the first of these, “Happy House” (#17), a tale dripping with sarcasm about family facades set against Budgie's African rhythm and McGeoch's scratchy guitar. Everyone's perfectly sane in the happy house: “We've done no wrong with our blinkers on, it's safe and calm if you sing along”. La-la-la-la-la, uncomfortable home truths! Mental illness was also to the fore in the follow-up single, “Christine” (#22), a song about a poor girl so distressed and stressed that she devises 22 faces to cope, characters of her multiple personality disorder including the Strawberry Girl and the Banana Split Lady. The Banshees were bravely venturing where few pop groups dare to go. Another highlight is “Hybrid”, a top freakout song about social chameleons, delivered in an unusual shotgun rhythm style and McGeoch stepping in with some traumatic sax. The fantastic closer, “Skin”, once again rhythmically and atmospherically brilliant, seethes at the ugliness of the fur trade, specifically the ugliness of the people who would support it. As Siouxsie would later comment: “We’re against their pathetic arguments about the culls, saying there are too many animals. The one thing there is too much of is people”. They're really saying something on their third record, and doing it with a fair degree of innovative style. A great forward step.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:56] 9.2.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Happy House (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk
A2 [03:43] 5.8.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Tenant (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk
A3 [03:19] 6.5.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Trophy (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey, John McGeoch) Post-Punk
A4 [05:34] 7.9.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Hybrid (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk
A5 [01:55] 6.2.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Clockface (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk
A6 [03:04] 5.7.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Lunar Camel (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) New Wave
B1 [03:01] 9.7.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Christine (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) New Wave
B2 [04:17] 6.6.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Desert Kisses (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk
B3 [03:23] 6.3.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Red Light (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Electronica
B4 [04:35] 5.7.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Paradise Place (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk
B5 [03:51] 8.1.png Siouxsie and The Banshees - Skin (Susan Ballion, Steven Bailey) Post-Punk

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