Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (1978)

Ella Walmsley

Esher College student, aged 17

During listening to the album ‘The Scream’ by Siouxsie and The Banshees, released in 1978. I found it oddly relaxing and atmospheric, with a continuous beat and steady tempo throughout. Allowing me to become quite entranced with the music, even though I don’t typically listen to the ‘gothic’ genre. I became absorbed.

While I did thoroughly enjoy the album, on the other hand I found the songs within the album rather repetitive, with extremely similar vocals and little contrast between each song. Making it hard to differentiate between them.

Only once or twice, such as in Hong Kong Garden (my favourite song of the album) I realised that a new song had started. As it had a unique airy intro for the album, introducing us to the song with a xylophone (and a catchy tune).

While I did enjoy experiencing the album, I will most likely only continue to listen to a few of the songs from the album with stood out because of a unique factor which they held, such as an instrument, varying tone or rhythm. Such as Hong Kong Garden and Switch.

Steve Morgan

Freelance Journalist, aged 55

‘No musical compromise’. The nascent Siouxsie and The Banshees – a band whose first gig featured a 20-minute improvised squall based on the Lord’s Prayer – were defiantly untutored and wilful, almost as if searching for a sound they could get on with. And glacial debut The Scream still sounds as cloying and other as in 1978’s winter of discontent. 

By then, punk was morphing into something else entirely. At its vanguard were the Banshees, anchored by Sex Pistols acolytes Susan Ballion and Steven Bailey – AKA Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin. Their respective suburban backdrops of Chislehurst and Bromley appeared uninspiring, but behind those prim net curtains lurked dark kitchen-sink tales, fractured lives ripe for dissection.

Taking newspaper cuttings as lyrical cues, Siouxsie’s frostily detached delivery, backed by John McKay’s skeletal guitar, Severin’s thudding bass and the tom-tom heavy Velvet Underground beats of Kenny Morris, The Scream’s noose chokes from the off. Woozy instrumental opener Pure hints at the slow-paced nightmare ahead: Jigsaw Feeling, ‘One day I’m feeling total, the next I’m split in two’ confirms we’re not headed for a sing-a-long. Hong Kong Garden, the band’s breakthrough hit single, is not featured: the closest we get to ‘pop’ are Mirage and epic closer Switch, one of two tracks featuring parping sax, which weighs in at almost seven minutes. 

Arguably birthing goth, they drag The Beatles with them on a bold, staccato cover of Helter Skelter. It’s a white-knuckle, claustrophobic ride; the album’s primitive power a fearsome mission statement from first note to last.

Kingston link:

Siouxsie and The Banshees played Kingston’s Coronation Hall on 27/3/1978.

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