But there are some musicians who have taken time’s withering effects, and given it a good spanking.
Siouxsie Sioux is one of them.
Thirty-one years since the Banshees’ debut performance, Siouxsie Sioux has been unremitting throughout the years, performing, creating, and re-creating her bad self. The release of her solo debut Mantaray has spawned a western tour, which so far, has met with packed venues and positive reviews. Beginning in Europe in late October, she is currently seducing the US in her wardrobe of catsuits, and will return to England by March for a round of shows.
Hailing from the Brit punk explosion of ’76, Sioux was first seen with a group of early Sex Pistols fans, titled the Bromley Contingent, and was noted for her outlandish punk stylings, bedecked in bondage and cabaret-style makeup. She is seen with the Pistols on the infamous episode of the Bill Grundy TV Show when the boys insulted the perplexed host and made front-page history. Notable among other members were Tony James and Billy Idol, and Banshees co-founder Steve Severin. Together, Sioux and Severin, (with Sid Vicious moonlighting on drums), created a make-shift band whose lineup didn’t last past the night—The Banshees— for a spot at the 100 Club in London, a gig arranged by Pistol’s manager Malcolm McLaren. Inherently instigative, renditions of “The Lords Prayer,” Led Zeppelin, and the German national anthem were heard.
From that point forward, Siouxsie Sioux would continue to harness that contentious punk ethos, and alongside musicians Severin and later collaborating husband Budgie, ingeniously fuse that early punk-i-ness with a noted penchant for poetic tendencies, creating anything that ranged from artsy pop-esque hits like “Kiss Them for Me” to haunting socio-political beauties like “Israel,” and of course dark, synth-layered ditties like “Face to Face.” Thus she became supreme of a variety of deities, sometimes called Queen of the New Wave and Queen of Goth. Her music and style, give or take, have influenced the likes of The Cure, Morrissey, U2, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Tricky, Shirley Manson, Jeff Buckley, P.J. Harvey, LCD Soundsystem, and of course decades of aspiring musicians and club-goers. It’s safe to say, if Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, and the Ramones influenced anything that lays claim to punk, for better or worse, Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees remain a stimulating force in a lot of post-punk that aims to avoid sticky labels.
And now, Siouxsie Sioux, solo? Judging from the performance she gave at Irving Plaza in New York in early February, two things are certain: she continues to deliver knock-out performances, and her voice and her trademarked hair are still intact, if not better and bigger. Yet Mantaray content has met with mixed reviews, some regarding the album as Sioux showing her true pop-leaning colors, and straying from the Banshees and the Creatures more chaotic energy. This reception seems to hail from some kind of minority purist contingent, chastising the lyrics and music for being too glammy, and so soon lost to Banshees lore.
Apart from the stylistic polemics of Solo Sioux, even if certain dyspeptic critics are liable to demote the tracks to the “pop-rock” bin due in part to their stylistic variance and ambiguity, Mantaray does attest to Sioux’s creative prowess. Tracks like “Loveless” resonate with a Creatures feel, with plenty of drone and marimba, but also rendered with distorted industrial-fed guitars-heaviness not toyed with, to my knowledge, until now.
And while the more overt intimate lyrics of certain songs like “Into a Swan” may cause some to be uncomfortably reminded of Madonna-goes-brunette phase, in the art world-”Ive felt a force I’ve never felt before…feeling so strong, can’t be ignored”-one only has to actually listen to the lyrics to uncover Sioux’s well-oiled employ of her poetic license. She pokes the audience with a few coy questions in the song’s entrance, unabashedly answers them in crescendo, shuts up any town-crying, and backs the whole thing by stating that public opinion is irrelevant-”laugh in the face that is vulture law”- and in fact, finds it amusing either way. Daring for a first solo album? More like Sioux is confidently laying claim to her status and abilities, and it ain’t nothing to fuck wit’. So love her or leave her, until the next go-round.
But honestly, that raw but expertly controlled voice of hers and her knack for covers could make most any old song sound worthwhile, even conventional-unconventional Disney songs and French Christmas carols, which she has done. And so far her Mantaray performances are testament to her viable force in the music community. She should be as house-hold as Bowie, but I’m glad she still has something of a cult-following, at least in New York. Otherwise she’d be playing those awful arena shows.
Perhaps the Banshees purists didn’t venture to the New York show, but it would have been hard to tell. The overcrowded building can attest to that, with the audience bottlenecked at the doorways leading into the auditorium. Not to mention the three encores. Alongside Steve Evans and Charlie Jones on guitars and synths, Sioux played nearly the entire new album, plus Banshee classics like “Hong Kong Garden,” and the notorious cover of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger,” which blended well stylistically with the Mantaray lineup.
Highlights were the mantra-esque “Into a Swan,” “Here Comes that Day,” the atmospheric “Heaven and Alchemy,” and the danceable “Cish Cash,” from her collaboration with Basement Jaxx. Even as a solo artist, Sioux has held onto her passion for taking certain hits and making them her own, with a very intelligent cabaret-sense that sometimes comes off as deliciously tongue-and-cheek. Adding to her repertoire, she covered “Hello I, Love You” by the Doors, as well as the Banshees cover-classic “Dear Prudence.”
Visit her official website for tour info, dates, and more.
Photos and fan comments from the NYC show, courtesy of Prefix Mag
Early live footage of Siouxsie & the Banshees
Siouxsie Sioux – Into a Swan music video
Siouxsie interview with the Bromley Contingent
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