Album: Kaliedoscope, 1980
Justification: With the (thoroughly deserved) glowing obituaries for the likes of Poly Styrene and Ari Up, I thought it might be nice to pay tribute to a UK punk icon, musician and artist while she was, you know, still alive.
The influence of the woman born Susan Ballion is considerable – aside from the obvious chicks-can-make-music antecedents like PJ Harvey and Santigold and Shirley Manson (and let’s not forget that UK music wasn’t exactly brimming with female artists controlling their own destinies at this point in history, Kate Bush aside): TV on the Radio wouldn’t have existed without her, Tricky wouldn’t have gotten the whole atmosphere+beats idea, Janes Addiction ripped them off blind and listening to ‘Happy House’ again years after it was the first Banshees track I ever heard*, it makes me ask the question “why the fuck did everyone go on about Wire and Gang of Four when Franz Ferdinand et al were in the ascendent, and not mention S&tB?” Jesus, just listen to the jerky rhythms! Steve Severin’s up-the-neck basslines! Siouxie’s punctuated vocals! It’s basically Punk Funk 101.
It’s also where the band pretty much became the Banshees they were meant to be, thanks to two new additions: ex-Slits drummer Budgie (who was to remain with the band for their rest of their career and become the now-ex-husband of Sioux) and guitarist John McGeogh, just late of Magazine and later to join PiL. This line up didn’t last long – McGeogh jumped ship in a fog of fights and heroin not long after the album was made – but his shrill, jerky playing style was to define the band’s style for a long time after his departure.
I saw them live at Heaven in Adelaide in (I’m guessing around) 1992 when they were touring the Twice Upon A Time singles collection, and they were fucking incredible. It was a hits-and-memories-style set – off memory, they did only a handful of album tracks – so it really was a matter of being bludgeoned by awesome song after awesome song.
*Like so, so many wanna-be goth boys, I got into the Banshees because of Robert Smith’s involvement – and for what it’s worth, my favourite Cure period is when he was being torn left and right between his commitments to both bands and creating desperate, confused, hallucinatory masterpieces like The Top.
THIS TIME IN 2010: Weekend. Nice to have a chance to catch up, though. Why not have a look through the archives? There’s heaps of stuff there.