The previous album was kind of a no-brainer since Nick Cave and Halloween (ie. creepy) generally go hand-in-hand. I was kind of challenged then to come up with something a more, well, lets just say “less than obvious”, and I believe I have found just the perfect album, ‘Juju‘ by Siouxsie & the Banshees.
Released in 1981 on Polydor Records, the was recorded at Surrey Sound studio with Nigel Gray as co-producer, and go on to be hailed as a landmark album of post-punk. Unfortunately, I was more into my bullshit FM pop crap a la Rick Springfield’s ‘Jessie’s Girl‘ and Kim Carnes ‘Bette Davis Eyes‘ at the time but, hey, I was only 9 years old, that the hell did I know?
One of the band’s masterworks, this album sees Siouxsie and the Banshees operating in a squalid wall of sound dominated by tribal drums, swirling and piercing guitars, and Siouxsie Sioux’s fractured art-attack vocals…reminiscent of , say, Joy Division, but even gloomier.
Siouxsie and company took things to an entirely new level of darkness on ‘Juju’, with the singer taking delight in sinister wordplay on the disturbing ‘Head Cut‘, creeping out listeners in the somewhat tongue-in-cheek ‘Halloween‘, and inspiring her band mates to push their rhythmic witches brew to poisonous levels of toxicity. The album opener ‘Spellbound‘, one of the band’s classics, ranks among their finest moments and bristles with storming energy. Siouxsie’s mysterious voice emerges from dense guitar picking, Budgie lays into his drums as if calling soldiers to war, and things get more tense from there. ‘Into the Light‘ is perhaps the only track where a listener gets a breath of oxygen, as the remainder of the album screams claustrophobia, whether by creepy carnival waterfalls of guitar notes or Siouxsie’s unsettling lyrics.
‘Arabian Nights‘ at least offers a gorgeously melodic chorus, but after that the band performs a symphony of bizarre wailing’s and freaky imagery. As ominous as the cacophony is on its own, close attention to Siouxsie’s nearly subliminal chants paints a scarier picture. A passage such as “I saw you…a huge smiling central face with eyes and lips cut out but smiling and eating lots of other lips” doesn’t exactly brighten one’s day. Siouxsie is full of such quips throughout the album’s running time, but her delivery packs as much punk as her message. Her attack-the-world dynamic range on ‘Voodoo Dolly’ predates and out-weirds Björk’s similar styling years later.
A perfect creepy-themed Halloween-inspired listen here in Satan’s production floor this afternoon. Shit, I might just have to hunt this out my own collection for future Halloween spins.