Christmas Posts 2016 part 4

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I have posted tonight’s music before, of course, but that shouldn’t be a sign that I don’t care. Rather: that I think it’s worth hearing again.

Siouxsie and the Banshees covered the traditional French Christmas carol ‘Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant’ (trans: ‘ He Is Born, The Divine Child’ – read more on wiki) back in 1982. This video is from French TV, from when Robert Smith was in the band. The track was released as the b-side to the single ‘Melt!’ and can be found on the box set Downside Up.

Later on, in 2011, Talking Heads off shoot Tom Tom Club covered the track as well.

17 Seconds Christmas Posts 2015: part 3

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OK, so today for something a little more traditional.

Siouxsie and the Banshees covered the French Christmas carol for a b-side (or double A, if you prefer) for the 1982 single ‘Melt!’ This track can be found on the Downside Up 4CD compilation of their b-sides (which is definitely worth it), which can be found on iTunes.

This is a French TV performance from around late 1982, from when Robert Smith was in the band…

There’s an intersting Wiki entry on the song here.

…and as a bonus, from 2011, here is Tom Tom Club covering the song (I heard this for the first time this evening). This can be found on Amazon mp3

The return of Siouxsie

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I have to confess I haven’t been watching Hannibal (though I rate the Hannibal films). But it is spectacularly good news that Siouxsie Sioux has made her first new music in eight years.

It’s taken from the finale of Series 3 of Hannibal and it’s entitled ‘Love Crime.’ I can’t find any information about when (or even whether) it will be released, so for now, enjoy the clip on YouTube:

There is, so far as I can find, no more news at this moment about whether this means there will be a new album or tour. And like this blog post, everything I have found on the ‘net is accompanied with a photo that’s not that recent…

Album Review – Siouxsie and the Banshees (re-issues)

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Above, Siouxsie Sioux with producer John Cale, circa 1994.

Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Through The Looking Glass’/’Peepshow’/’Superstition’/’The Rapture’ (Polydor)

These four re-issues mark the final four Siouxsie and the Banshees albums (eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh studio albums, if you’re counting). Released between 1987 and 1995, they came more than a decade after what was intended to be a one-off performance at the 100 Club in 1976. (Their line-up that night included Sid Vicious on drums and future Ant Marco Pirroni on guitar.) Bassist Steve Severin and Siouxsie Sioux would be the only constant members during the band’s lifetime, though drummer Budgie joined the group permanently in late 1979. They would become one of the most vital groups of the next few decades.

Through The Looking Glass was an album of cover versions released in 1987, with the band paying tribute to but also arranging the songs within in a striking way, that means that this album (coincidentally, one of the first records I ever owned, aged ten) has dated extremely well. Sioux and Severin had met at a Roxy Music concert in the mid-seventies, and so it’s fitting that Roxy’s ‘Sea Breezes’ appears here. The big hit was their cover of Dylan’s ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ which had been popularised by Julie Driscoll. Perhaps most striking, even now, are the arrangements of Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’, with its New Orleans’ Jazz feel, and the brass added to their interpretation of Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ which took the song to some place entirely different. Amongst the bonus tracks included here are a version of The Modern Lovers’ ‘She Cracked (Which makes you wonder what other songs may have been recorded for the project) and the longtime missing in action single ‘From The Edge Of The World’ which was released before the band started work on their next album. I do have fond memories of my Parents banging on the wall early one morning when I first put the version of ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ rather too loudly. (****)

The following year saw the release of Peepshow. The line-up had changed again, with John Valentine Carruthers being replaced by guitarist Jon Klein and the addition of multi-instrumentalist Martin McCarrick, who had played on Through The Looking Glass, and would later join Therapy?. For my money, this is actually the finest album that the Banshees ever released. Kicking off with the top twenty single ‘Peek-A-Boo’ the album gives free reign to utterly brilliant songs and arrangements which show that ten years after their first single and album, the band were firing on all cylinders. If the aim of Through The Looking Glass had been to rejuvenate them, then it more than succeeded. As well as the two other singles taken from the album ‘The Killing Jar’ and ‘The Last Beat Of My Heart’ the album featured album tracks amongst the finest of their career, including ‘Scarecrow’ ‘Ornaments Of Gold’ and ‘Scarecrow.’ Amongst the b-sides here is a beautiful version of ‘Last Beat Of My Heart’ recorded at the inaugural Lollapalooza tour in 1991. If you only own one Siouxsie and the Banshees studio album (Which is a pretty odd decision to make in my book), it really should be this one. (*****)

1991’s Superstition again opens with one of the band’s best known singles ‘Kiss Them For Me.’ It was a proper chart hit in both the US and UK, and featured a then unknown Tabla player named Talvin Singh. It was a great start to the album, but what dates this album – one of the lesser-rated albums in the Banshees canon, is the production work of Stephen Hague. Hague had worked with the likes of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order and so whilst able to bring leftfield acts to daytime radio, it really doesn’t seem to work well over the course of an entire album. That said, Sioux’s voice still sounded as good as ever, the line-up had held strong for another album, and the songs remain strong. It just feels a little more muted than a Siouxsie and the Banshees album really should. This re-issue features ‘Face To Face’ as one of the bonus tracks, yet another UK Top 40 single, which featured on the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman Returns at Burton’s personal request. (***1/2).

The band’s final album, The Rapture was released in 1995. Mostly produced by the band, with production by John Cale on a handful of tracks it showed the band, nearly twenty years since their inception were still able to combine the ability to experiment with writing excellent songs. Though ‘O Baby’ sounds most unlike a Banshees song as anyone knew them, they’d proved by this time that they were still capable of surprising and challenging people with whatever it was they thought the Banshees were supposed to sound like. It’s not typical of the album as a whole, which features sublime title track clocking in at over eleven minutes long. Whilst it seems unlikely that the band conceived it as their swansong, it was not a bad place to finish a career that had begun almost by accident nearly twenty years previously. (****)

Within a few months, the band called it a day. They were dropped by Polydor who they’d been signed to the entirety of their career, and ex-Psychedelic Furs guitarist Knox Chandler replaced Jon Klein for the tour. Their split in 1996 coincided with the Sex Pistols announcing they were reforming. Whether this was chance or design, the Banshees gave the impression that they’d done it all on their own term from start to finish. Even their brief reformation tour in 2002 was not a rehash of the greatest hits but rather, the opportunity to revisit what they chose. Sioux remains one of the most strikingly individual performers ever, influencing artists as diverse as Morrissey, Tricky, PJ Harvey and Ana Matronic. There are those who would tell you that the period covered by these re-issues was a time when the band had long ceased to be relevant.

Ignore them. One listen to each of these re-issues (though I sincerely hope you’ll take many more) shows just how compelling Siouxsie and the Banshees remained from start to finish.

Through The Looking Glass, Peepshow, Superstition and The Rapture are re-issued by Polydor/UMC on October 27.

The performance that truly got me into the band as a ten year old – Top Of The Pops, January 1987.

18 months later, the band (with revised line-up) are back on Top Of The Pops, for a performance of ‘Peek-A-Boo’ that also mixes in the video (this wasn’t actually uncommon).

Mid 1991, the band appear on Top Of The Pops with a young Talvin Singh for yet another hit with ‘Kiss Them For Me.’

Their final top 40 hit ‘O Baby.’ This video is quite typical of what ‘Alternative’ music videos looked like circa 1995…

Does there have to be a reason?

Yesterday evening, I put on Marc Riley’s 6Music show whilst cooking tea for Mrs. 17 Seconds, son 17 Seconds and yours truly whilst cooking tea. The first track to come on, sounded familiar in that ‘I have this on vinyl, somewhere, I just haven’t played it in a while sort of way.

My first thought was that it was something off one of Wire’s first three albums (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing or 154) then of course, when Siouxsie Sioux’s vocals kicked in of course I realised! Metal Postcard, from their 1978 debut LP The Scream (and yup, I do have it on vinyl). The version above comes from a 1978 appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

Wikipedia states: “Mittageisen” is a single by the English band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Originally appearing on the band’s 1978 debut album The Scream as “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)”, the track was re-recorded in 1979, this time with the lyrics sung in German.

The title “Mittageisen” is a word play based on the German words “Mittagessen” (literally: “noon meal”, i.e. lunch) and Eisen (“iron”). The title was inspired by John Heartfield’s photocollage Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle![1] (“Hurray, the Butter is Finished!”), which was also used as the single’s cover art.

John Heartfield’s photocollage was initially used on the frontpage of the “Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung / Workers Illustrated Journal”, published on December 19th, 1935. Heartfield (1891–1968) was an early member of Club Dada, which started in 1916 as Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich. The picture with the title ‘Hurrah, die Butter ist Alle! / Hurray, the butter is finished!’ shows a family who eats various pieces of metal. The trigger for it was the following quote from Hermann Göring: “Iron always made a nation strong, butter and lard only made the people fat.”

“Mittageisen” was composed by Banshees members Siouxsie Sioux, John McKay, Kenny Morris and Steven Severin, the lyrics were translated by Dave Woods. The single is dedicated to John Heartfield.”

You can read more about John Heartfield here.

This is the German version of ‘Mittageisen’ with Heartfield’s images used. Very effective…

Christmas Posts 2013 part 3

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Tonight’s offering comes from the fantastic Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Their version of the traditional French carol ‘Il est ne le divin enfant’ (which literally translates as ‘He is born the divine child’ (though I’m sure someone can offer a more poetic translation) was the b-side to the 1982 single ‘Melt!’ (and yes, the exclamation mark is definitely meant to be there). Read more about the carol over at Wiki.

You can find it on the Downside Up compilation, but if you’re unable to afford the entire boxset you can buy the mp3 from iTunes and the like.

This TV performance is French and features Robert Smith, who was the band’s guitarist intermittently between 1979 and 1984, in addition to leading The Cure and collaborating with the Banshees’ bassist Steve Severin for The Glove project. They all look rather non-plussed, but the beauty of the track is here nonetheless.

Does there have to be a reason?

Feeling a little more human today. However, the wee man has been very fractious of late, so the blog has been on the backburner a bit. There are interviews from Dweezil Zappa and We Were Promised Jetpacks to be published very shortly.

But it’s my birthday tomorrow so some gothic pleasures for now…

Patricia Morrison really had a je ne sais quoi when I was eleven years old.

It’s Friday…so it’s covers time

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Utterly exhausted here.

Sorry for lack of posts over the last few days -yesterday evening I burned my hand and was more concerned with trying to make sure I was actually going to be able to get into work today.

There will be more reviews appearing here over the weekend – but for now enjoy these…

Ash -‘Does Your Mother Know? (Abba cover).’ mp3

Black Box Recorder -‘Seasons In the Sun (Terry Jacks cover).’ mp3

Teenage Fanclub -‘Like A Virgin (Madonna cover).’ mp3

Placebo -‘Johnny & Mary (Robert Palmer cover).’ mp3

Manic Street Preachers -‘Suicide Is Painless (Theme From M*A*S*H)( M*A*S*H cover).’ mp3

Siouxsie & the Banshees -‘The Passenger (Iggy Pop cover).’ mp3

Mercury Rev -‘I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier (John Lennon cover).’ mp3

Flying Saucer Attack -‘Outdoor Miner (Wire cover).’ mp3

Primal Scream -‘Know Your Rights (Clash cover).’ mp3

Sonic Youth -‘Hot Wire My Heart (Crime cover).’ mp3

Ten for the nineties…1991*

Ah…1991. School was rubbish, the UK got involved in a war in Iraq (plus ca change la meme chose etc..) and the UK recession bit. How times change. Bryan Adams was no.1 for sixteen weeks with the theme for a film about Robin Hood that showed Kevin Costner doing an appalling English accent -‘Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.’ Music, yet again, would save us. Depending on what got through, of course. Bizarrely, songs not played during the time of the Gulf War were ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ by Elton John, the Bangles ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and Lulu’s ‘Boom-bang-a-bang.’ The Cure’s ‘Killing An Arab’ didn’t make the blacklist though. In the middle of all this, there was the incongruous sight of the Clash getting a no.1 with the re-issued ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’

I have to admit, this track didn’t do much for me in 1991, but over the course of the decade, it and parent album Blue Lines grew on me. It was actually credited to Massive, rather than Massive Attack, being as the name was considered inappropriate at the time of the Gulf War. This track is without a doubt my favourite track of the last twenty years.

Massive -‘ Unfinished Sympathy.’

A few weeks ago, a twelve year old started trying to tell me abuot when Nirvana first appeared on Top of the Pops. ‘You don’t have to tell me,’ I explained ‘I was watching it, I know!’ But that’s the thing: for my generation he was the one who pushed open the door for alternative music into the mainstream; for another generation after us, he’s an icon of doomed youth. Perhaps it’s how people in their fourties feel when i ask them about their experiences of the punk days. Ah well…

Nirvana -‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’

Hello to shoegazing (part 1). Curve were one of those names I would gaze it in the indie chart each week, wondering how I could even get to hear their music -the likelihood of hearing it on daytime Radio 1 was slim, and I had no access to MTV, and filesharing meant something different in 1991. Eventually I heard them – bought a cassette single of ‘Coast Is Clear’ and was not disappointed. This was the debut single though, featuring the man who held the record for many years for being the world’s fastest rapper – ‘JC 001.’

Curve -‘Ten Little Girls’

In which the world of shoegazing meets goth (see also the Cocteau Twins). By 1991, Siouxsie and the Banshees were pretty much the elder statesmenandwoman of the ‘indie-alternative’ spectrum, but I still carried a torch for them that I had done since I saw ‘Candyman’ as a nineyear old on Top of the Pops. This song was prime Banshees, even if parent album Superstition wasn’t. As shoegazing and baggy battled it out (well, sorta), the instrumental break seemed to bear more than a passing resemblance to Chapterhouse’s single of the same time ‘Pearl.’

Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Kiss Them For Me.’

It’s a truth not generally acknowledged that there was a successful pre-Britpop indie scene, that dind’t involve Shoegazing necessarily, but did make it onto Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits and quite often daytime Radio 1. The Wonderstuff were one of those bands, along with Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Jesus Jones, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine who often did rather well. This was their biggest hit as band (not involving covers and Vic Reeves).

Wonderstuff -‘Size Of A Cow.’

This song got me from the off: ‘Says she won;t be forced against her will/says she don’t do drugs but she does the pill.’ sufficiently parent-baiting, I hoped. I still have a spot for the Fanclub but I kinda preferred them when they were mashing up Big Star and Dinsoaur Jr, rather than the Neil Young of the scottish west coast which started setting in about 1997.

Teenage Fanclub -‘The Concept.’

It has been said about many of the pre-britpop bands that they made more money selling T-shirts than records, but they did have hits too. This song got Carter onto the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in October 1991. The show might have passed off without incident had host Philip Schofield then muttred an insensitive gag about thier haircuts…see “>here. heh heh…My little brother and I were there, having won tickets, and we sorta saw it, but it was only completely clear when we got home and wathced the video afterwards…

Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine -‘After The watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way).

*Would be here also: REM -‘Losing My Religion’; Billy Bragg ‘Sexuality.’ Problems with what is available on YouTube at the moment.

six from four

These six tracks were indeed all featured in John Peel’s Festive Fifty in the early eighties, but I’m not doing this as a John Peel post per se, just fancied sharing some great music wih you, as it makes it from the vinyl to the iPod.

Is there such a thing as the best best-of ever? The Jam’s Snap! must surely be a contender…

The Jam – ‘Going Underground.’ mp3

One of my many, many planned posts for the future is one Pete Wylie and the 7,000 faces of Wah!

Wah! Heat -‘Better Scream.’ mp3

It’s odd to think that goth was once tagged ‘positive punk’ in NME, and that the tag was only applied to music (there were certainly gothic sounding music long before that, as far back as Mozart’s Requiem, IMHO). So often it seems ot be used as a tag of insult or abuse, erroneously as far as I’m concerned. Certainly, many bands who came out of punk seemed to have a foot in the goth camp, to say nothing of a following.

The Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette is where they started to get gothic, and where this track comes from, though The Black Album was surprise, surprise, even more so…

The Damned -Love Song.’ mp3

The curious-sounding ‘Hong Kong Garden’ with its’ wonderful eastern overtones was a great debut single, even if the lyrics seem a little close to novelty at times.* But it was on their albums that the dark heart of this particularly gorgeous and mesmerising creature lurked, as shown on these tracks from The Scream and Join Hands. Then two years later there was Juju

Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Switch.’ mp3 (from The Scream)

Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Jigsaw feeling.’ mp3

Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Icon.’ mp3

Enjoy, folks…

xx

* Oh come on: ‘Chicken Chou-mein and chop suey…Hong Kong Garden Takeaway.’