21 hours ago
Saturday, November 22, 2008
CHAPTER 22: DARK THINGS : GOTH AND THE RETURN OF ROCK
(first half of Chapter 21, Dark Things and Glory Boys, in the US edition)
>“dancing music… overtones”
Hannett. MM, 9/29/79.
For instance, NME’s Andy Gill, in 1980, railed against Bauhaus’s “Gothick-Romantic pseudo-decadence"
>Goth and New Pop
An example: look at the strange migration of the name Sex Gang Children which came from McLaren’s kiddy-porno script for the Mile High Club, via Boy George who was Liuetenant Lush in Bow Wow Wow for a while, to be the name of Andi Sex's Goth band Sex Gang Children, doubtless because Andi and George shared a squat (in Warren Street if memory serves) at one point in the early Eighties, when they were part of a milieu that included Jeremy Healey (soon to be a famous warehouse party DJ at clubs like Dirtbox) and Marilyn (Jerry Hall-lookalike tranny pop star gender bender in the George mold). Another connection between New Romanticism and Goth: the disputed relationship (were they lovers? George sez yes) between Kirk Brandon and Boy George. Basically they were all London ex-Bowie boy glam chancers running riot at Boots make-up counter and whether they went New Romantic/Futurist or Goth was largely dependent on happenstance and timing.
>"overwhelming sobriety…. Laughter but romanticism"
Greil Marcus, Ranters and Crowdpleasers (originally titled In the Fascist Bathroom), page 152. The lines are from an essay about Delta 5.
>“Led Zeppelin… pop product”
McLaren. Sounds 12/4/82.
More from Malcolm on Zep: " I have tremendous respect for that, the way they presented themselves to the public." And of course a long term dream project of McLaren's was to make a movie about Peter Grant, Led Zep’s manager, who fucked over record companies and live promoters with a proto-McLaren like ruthlessness, except that he was all a big bulky fucker of a guy not averse to getting physically heavy with impediments to his band's interest, unlike the frankly feeble McLaren
More from McLaren attacking New Pop:
"Music is magical… HM, Punk, scratch, they’re all tribal. It’s techno-pop, this ‘new pop’ that says ‘Vote Reagan’… These groups who say, We Are Fun. That’s to me like a grey shadow on the East Berlin wall. ‘Fun’: it’s like a huge immoveable block… Haircut 100 are closer to Dean Martin than the Sex Pistosls, they’re pre-punk. There is more commitment in REO Speedwagon than in the Human League”
And from a different earlier Sounds interview (I think)
“’new pop’, ‘new ‘wave, whatever the industry chooses to call it, has more of a fickle fan, more of a fan brought up on TV. They don’t hang their coat, those fans, they aren’t ‘loyalists’ in the way REO Speedwagon fans are. They don’t particularly get behind a group… The fans of the ‘new wave’ wait for TV and radio acceptance of what they like, they are the marketed fans, they are, literally, The Fans of The Rock Industry."
>Kill ugly pop
Apparently based on a phrase coined by Frank Zappa, attacking top 40 formats in the sixties: “kill ugly radio”
>positive punk … Richard North
His positive punk piece in the NME is at http://www.scathe.demon.co.uk/posipunk.htm
Something stirs again in this land of fetid, directionless sludgery, this land of pretend optimism and grim reality. Theory and practice are being synthesised under the golden umbrella of a two-hour long ideal.
Welcome to the new positive punk.
Although it's not the purpose of this article to create any kind of movement or cult, any easy or accessible bandwagon to be tumbled onto, it is indisputable that a large number of bands and people involved in the culture called rock, have sprung up at approximately the same time, facing their lifestyles in the same direction. Maybe unconsciously so, It's a huge collective force that we can call the new positive punk- a re-evaluation and rejuvenation of the ideals that made the original outburst so great, an intensification of and expansion of that ethos of individuality, creativity and rebellion. The same buzz that burned our streets in '76/'77 is happening again….
Their use of mystical /metaphysical imagery and symbolism is a striking common denominator. Not in the way of dumb-dabbling and superficial posturing of, say, a Black Sabbath with their (gasp) black magic kick. Nor is it a silly hippy Tolkien fantasy joyride, or even a Killing Joke stench-of-death gloomier-than-thou slice of fanaticism. It is, instead, an intelligent and natural interest in mystery, rather than history, that is a sign of an open mind….
…And if all this sounds a touch heavy, let's consider the humour, style and inherent fun that are essential parts of the movement…. Here is a glow of energy and life that overcomes the need for artificial stimulation. Unlike the heroin or barbituate sodden club scene or the glue swamped Oi/punk arena, the emphasis here is not on drugs. Although illicit substances are not unknown, the desperate desire to nullify boredom is not present, and therefore there is no narcotic edge to the scene. …
Money and time are tight: so both of them are being spent on something far from enjoyable and important: style. There's a veritable explosion of multi-coloured aestheticism. So different from the blend, stereotyped Oi/boothby/punk fare of jeans, leather jacket and studs, this is an individualist stance even if it tends towards a common identity. A green-haired spike-topped girl wearing a long black pleated skirt, white parachute top and bootlace tie passes a tasselled, black-haired mohawk in creepers, white socks, red pegs and self-made, neatly printed T-shirt. Something clicks. They smile in acknowledgement. We are fireworks.
… Back at the tail-end of '78 and beyond, punk spun into a tailspin of tuinol-dazed tiredness. A pause. Trends came and went: dead ends such as mod, new romanticism - up to and including funk craze - all took their toll on the vital energy. And those who stuck with the essence of their punk were faced with the development of Oi. Punk, under the guidance of certain lobots, gathered itself around a banner of no brains, no style, no heart and no hope, Heads buried in the glue-bag of dejection and floundering away under a barrage if three-chord rubbish - this is, and was, no way to lead a life.
Some drifted with the anarcho scene which at the time (1980/81) was the only worthwhile concern going. But by 1983, when everything is said and done, that angle seems too flat and puritan to be of much inspirational value. Crass, although anti-sexist, were and still are extremely sexless: a stark, bleak Oliver Cromwell new model army, who have sense but no sensuality….
So here it is: the new positive punk, with no empty promises of revolution, either in rock 'n' roll sense or the wider political sphere. Here is only a chance of self awareness, of personal revolution, of colourful perception and galvanising of the imagination that startles the slumbering mind and body from their cloth.
Certainly this is revolution in the non-political sense, but at the same time its neither escapist nor defeatist. It is, in fact "political" in the genuine sense of the word.
The lowdown on Oi! at Garry Bushell's homepage
He says the scene was really birthed by the Angelic Upstarts (actually a good band, I liked "Teenage Warning" although they ruined it by performing it absolutely live on TOTP) and Cockney Rejects, these were the proto-Oi! bands and as with proto-Goth leading to Goth, it was their fading in energy and presence on the scene that demanding new bands form to fill the vacuum:
Bushell, from his site, and a piece based on a preface he wrote for George’s Marshall Oi! history book A Nation On Fire.
Elsewhere a second generation of hardcore Oi! bands had been spawned directly by the Upstarts and the Rejects. The Upstarts inspired Criminal Class from Coventry, and Infa-Riot from Plymouth via North London. The Cockney Rejects inspired the ferocious 4-Skins, and Sunderland’s Red Alert. Edinburgh noise-terrorists the Exploited also cited the Rejects as their major influence. In London, a whole host of groups sprang up around the Rejects too including Barney & The Rubbles and Stinky’s Postmen combo. A movement was evolving at the grass roots.
I called it Oi!
Oi! was and remains a Cockney street shout guaranteed to turn heads. Stinky Turner used to holler it at the start of each Rejects number, replacing the first punks’ habitual ‘1,2,3,4’. Before him “Oi! Oi!” had been Ian Dury’s catch-phrase, although he’d probably nicked it from Cockney comic Jimmy Wheeler whose catchphrase had been “Oi, Oi that’s yer lot.” Entertainers Flanagan and Allen first used “Oi!” as a catchphrase in their 1930s variety act.
As I was compiling ‘Oi! – The Album’ for EMI (released in November 1980) more like-minded combos sent demo tapes from all over the country. There was Blitz from New Mills, The Strike from Lanarkshire and Demob from Gloucester. But the first real challengers for the Rejects crown were the 4-Skins. They made their debut supporting the Damned at the Bridge House in ’79 with Micky Geggus on drums. The 4-Skins developed through various line-ups playing low-key London pub gigs sporadically before arriving at their definite line-up towards the end of 1980: Gary Hodges, vocals; Hoxton Tom, bass; Rockabilly Steven Pear, guitar; and John Jacobs, drums.
There was a real charisma about the band, and their raw brand of barbed-wire roar was blessed with a driving dynamism. Their stand-out song was ‘Chaos’, a horror movie fantasy of urban chaos and skinhead takeover. But most of their three minute blasts of fury concerned unemployment and police harassment (‘ACAB’, ‘Wonderful World’), the horrors of war (‘I Don’t Wanna Die’), thinking for yourself (‘Clockwork Skinhead’) self-pride (‘Sorry’) and class (‘One Law For Them’).
Both the 4-Skins and Infa-Riot were emphatic about the need to learn from the Rejects’ mistakes and get away from football trouble. The 4-Skins favoured no one team (Hodges was West Ham, Hoxton, Spurs, Steve, Arsenal and Jacobs, Millwall) and no one political preference (Hoxton was a liberal; Steve left Labour; Jacobs apolitical; and Hodges was a reformed right-winger very pro anti-unemployment campaigns). Infa-Riot were the same, professing no football affiliations. Mensi wrote their first Sounds review and he and Jock McDonald got them their first London gigs. Musically, they were a lot like a lither, wilder Upstarts. Like most Upstarts-influenced groups Infa-Riot played gigs for Rock Against Racism (an apparently noble campaign that was actually a front for the extreme Left SWP). Criminal Class played RAR gigs too, and a benefit for the highly suspect Troops Out Of Ireland movement.
The 4-skins refused to play RAR gigs, not wanting to be poster boys for Trotskyism.
The Oi! bands converged to publicly thrash out their stance at the Oi debate held at Sounds in January 1981. Everyone agreed on the need for raw r’n’r, and the sense of benefit gigs, but there was a heated difference of opinion on politics. Stinky Turner was violently against politics and politicians. Mensi argued that Labour still represented working class interests and claimed that “the Tories still represent the biggest threat to our kind of people”. It was the same divide that had always separated the Rejects and the Upstarts. They managed to be agree about reclaiming Britain’s Union flag for the people and, erh, that was it.
Although a few black and immigrant kids were into Oi, it was mostly a white working class phenomenon. The West Indian kids into Oi were cockney Blacks like the now famous Cass Pennant who’d rejected the pull of Rastafarianism and reggae. No Oi! band professed racialist or Nazi leanings (in fact Demob had two mixed race boxers in the band) and the teething trouble that dogged early gigs was all to do with the football legacy bequeathed by the Rejects. As Punk Lives commentated later “Anyone who went to Oi! gigs could tell you you didn’t get sieg-heiling at them…ironically Madness and Bad Manners had most trouble with Nazi skins at the time. All Oi! went on about was class”…..
When the 4-Skins, the Last Resort and the Business played a gig at the Hamborough Tavern in Southall six days later, the riot [by Asian youth] that surrounded it and the acres of hysterical newsprint that ensued drowned out that possibility, and any chance of Oi getting a fair hearing, for good.
When the shit hit the headlines during 1981’s summer of discontent, I sincerely believed that the truth would out. That the smears against the Oi bands would be laughed at in the same way that the slurs against the Sex Pistols and The Clash had been. The whole idea that the bands had gone into Middlesex to provoke a race riot was absurd. We’d been talking strike benefits, not NF marches. No Oi band had sported swaztikas like the Sex Pistols had done. No Oi band had sung lyrics like “too many Jews for my liking” as Siouxsie Banshee did. No Oi band had lifted their name from the SS like Joy Division had done…
What contributed to Oi’s undoing however was the movement’s utter hostility to the middle classes in general and the trendy left in particular (see the Garry Johnson/Business anthem ‘Suburban Rebels’). So as well as incurring the wrath of the right-wing establishment, Oi also alienated the left-wing of the middle class media whose backing had seen the punk bands through their own particular backlash… Besides me, there was no-one else in the media to defend the bands.
….The Oi! bands and their fans were guilty of that most terrible of crimes – being white and working class with chips on their shoulders.
Erm, well Garry, there was also the little matter of them playing shitty music.
And here's another good bit with Bushell justifying the Strength Thru Oi! compilation:
I take full responsibility for ‘Strength Thru Oi’. I gave the album its title. But it was never knowingly a pun on the Nazi slogan Strength Through Joy. Let’s be honest, who knew? How many people my age were that up on Third Reich sloganeering? The Skids had released an ep called Strength Through Joy earlier that year, and that’s what I based the pun on (asked later, Skids singer Richard Jobson – now a dapper TV movie reviewer - said he’d taken it from the Dirk Bogarde’s autobiography). It was either that or The Oi Of Sex which I dismissed as too frivolous. Doh!.,..
The biggest argument they had was the picture of the aggressive skin on the front cover. This turned out to be Nicky Crane (a gay Nazi who later died of AIDS). Here’s the truth: the original model had been West Ham personality and then body-builder Carlton Leach. Carlton had turned up for one photo session at the Bridge House that didn’t work. He never turned up for the second one. Under looming deadline pressure I suggested using a shot from a skinhead Xmas card which I believed was a still from the Wanderers movie. In fact it had been taken by English skinhead photographer Martin Dean. It wasn’t until the very last minute, when Decca had mocked up the sleeve that the photo was sufficiently clear to reveal Nazi tattoos. We had the option of either airbrushing the tattoos out or putting the LP back a month while we put a new sleeve together. Said Splodge manager Dave Long: “Blame it on youthful impetuousness but the wrong decision was made. It was a mistake, but it was an honest mistake. There’s nothing else on that LP or in Oi that could possibly be construed as dodgy.” …
In retrospect I think I’m more embarrassed by Crane being a poof.
If 1981 was the peak of Oi!, by 1982 (the year of Goth's emergence), by Bushell's account the scene had soured and stagnated with a lot of shit Oi! bands coming through. Cockney Rejects went metal, and by the end of 82 Bushell wrote an obituary for punk in Sounds.
Based around a literalist interpretation of “Anarchy In the UK”--not Johnny Rotten’s tyrannical theatre of solipsistic self-rule, but a more prosaic vision of worker’s councils and communes.
More on anarchopunk at Uncarved
A treasury of information and scans and personal reminiscences relating to Anarcho and also the intersection between anarcho's more musically creative end and the proto-Goth area, to be found at Alistair Livingston's Green Galloway blog
e.g. anarcho zine scans at Green Galloway -- and stuff from kill you pet puppy zine
>Crass… military… pacificism
One of Crass’s biggest singles was “Nagasaki Nightmare,” while their anti-Falkland War singles “Sheep Farming In the Falklands” and “How Does It Feel (To Be the Mother of A Thousand Dead)” drew the ire of Thatcher’s government.
Anarcho-punk was massive in the early Eighties: Crass sold 100 thousand copies of each of their self-released albums, and their stencilled logo was seen on municipal property and leather jackets in every suburban town in the UK.
Article on Crass
>“a thorn… mediocrity”
Sioux. The Guardian Weekend, 11/21/92
>Siouxsie’s ice queen voice… like a lance
Well wouldyabelieve it, apparently Sioux's favorite athletic activity at school was actually the javelin!
Ice queen -- in the famous New Musick feature package at the end of 1977, Sounds dubbed her the first lady of what they called the Cold Wave.
A less kind reviewer dismissed her as sounding like Sonja Kristina in Curved Air.
Siouxsie (from ZigZag, October 1977 No.77 pp.10-12): "Yeah Carcass -- it's about a butcher's assistant who can't get girls and so he falls in love with a lump of meat on the slab and so that he can be like the object of his affection -- he cuts off his arms and legs."
The interviewer points out that he couldn't cut of all his arms, surely… with one arm left holding the cleaver how could he hack that off?
Sioux: "Not at all, he just leans his shoulder on the Bacon Slicer!"
Sioux. Search & Destroy No.8, 1978
More from that interview:
John McKay: It's .. most groups, 99% of them, took the wrong message from the Pistols.
Siouxsie: And saw anarchy as destruction -- as a group, as a movement -- where as
it's not, it's --
Kenny Morris: Self-rule
Siouxsie: Disrupting yourself, questioning yourself ..
In a later interview, Siouxsie preempting Goth critique’s of New Pop’s squeaky-clean, look-on-the-bright side worldview: speaking to Sounds in 1981, she contrasted the Banshee’s “interest in the wicked things that are done to people” with the “superficial gaiety” of most chart pop.
>“You look… within suburbia.”
Siouxsie Sioux, unpublished full transcript of interview by the author, 1989.
Siouxsie on growing up in her lower middle class family in suburban Chiselhurt (the Guardian September 24, 2005): "I think that just because of the kind of family we were, there was definitely a sense of not feeling a part of the community, or of being neighbourly. I was very aware of us being very different. My father had a drink problem, which also sensitised that feeling. Where we lived was very residential, and our house seemed different. It wasn't red brick, to begin with - it was white stucco with a flat roof, and with trees. Everyone else had gardens with patios and neatly cut lawns, and we had these massive copper beech trees at the front, and a huge privet hedge. You couldn't look in to our house. All the others were almost inviting you to look in - life in all its normality was being paraded. Which probably wasn't the case behind closed doors, but that was the perception. [The suburbs] inspired intense hatred. I think the lure of London was always there. I remember my sister taking me to Biba on Kensington High Street; I bought a coat and used to gravitate towards going there on my own later. But the suburbs were also a yardstick for measuring how much we didn't fit in."
>favourite people, like the Doors
Siouxsie (the Guardian, Friday July 22, 2005): "The Doors and the Stooges were my two big influences, chiefly because both Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop have such strong vocal and lyrical styles. This might be hearsay, but I heard that Iggy auditioned for the Doors after Jim Morrison died. The reality is that Iggy is Iggy: he might try and copy someone, but so what? His character was always going to come through."
>“When he…. attack it"
Sioux. NME 4/17/82
>their most adventurous and varied album
Biggest departure and a grand success was “Cocoon” : perverted lounge jazz, its eerie claustrophobic lyrics inspired by a bad acid trip.
A big factor in the triumph was producer Mike Hedges, who that year also produced The Associates’s Sulk, which rivals and parallels A Kiss in the Dreamhouse in terms of decadent voluptuousness and psychedelic texturitis. Kiss was recorded in Hedges own studio with the Banshees enjoying Beatles-at-Abbey Road-like levels of access and unlimited studio time.
Yet the singles off the album were not hits; they'd become an Albums band.
The Roxy/Bowie-like balance they’d maintained between singles and long-players, pop instantness and rock depth, had been thrown out of joint, and with the exception of their Beatles cover "Dear Prudence" they would never again have as strong a presence in the UK Top 20 as during their Kaleidscope/Juju heyday.
The Cure had close kinship with the Banshees. Their label Fiction, a Polydor subsidiary, was built around The Cure by Chris Parry, the guy who’d originally signed The Banshees to Polydor; Severin and Smith did a neo-psychedelic project together called The Glove; Robert Smith joined the Banshees as guitarist for a while, while still leading his own band.
K-punk with a nice defence of The Cure in which he kinda detournes my 'neurasthenia' charge. The Cure, they're okay really. I actually bought 'A Forest'! Did like Seventeen Seconds a lot! Quite enjoyed the group's belated 'new pop' phase circa Head on the Door etc although partly cos the Gothette-ish girlfriend I was going out with at the time was mad into them so has romantic assocations.
The Birthday Party's precursor group The Boys next Door
>‘zoo music girl’… punk-funk song
Very much bearing the mark of The Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good and Evil” --actually one of the reasons Birthday Party emigrated to Britain (they thought the UK would be full of groups as demented and primal as Pop Group, only to be bitterly disappointed).
Nick Cave (NME, October 17, 1981): "There’s a real need for an intelligent but aggressive group in London. All the treasured groups are just so softcore. At one time there was a real upsurge of new young groups and incredible records like ‘She is Beyond Good And Evil’... you know, The Pop Group before they sacrificed the music for that soapbox, toilet-roll politics. The groups that came out of The Pop Group have got back to primitive funk, which is good... I saw Rip Rig and Panic at Action Space and there was a real directness and irreverence, as opposed to Pigbag, who are just happy to be convincingly funky."
And from the same interview:
Cave: "Coming to London has been one of the most disillusioning experiences of my life, partly for a lot of obvious reasons, like everything closing down at eleven o’clock, but more important, because when we came here we thought here at least people were doing more than standing around twanging their guitars. I was really shocked. When we arrived, we saw this package show at the Lyceum, with Echo And The Bunnymen, A Certain Ratio, Teardrop Explodes and so forth and... well, I’ve never been able to take English music seriously since. It was horrible."
>less Nelson Riddle
Written before ABC hit the scene, it reads like an anti-New Pop screed--“don’t drag the orchestra into this thing/rattle those sticks rattle those sticks”
>“Conjures… be dumb”
Howard. BB Gun Magazine #6, 2003.
>The Bad Seed... Mutiny
>Release the Bats
Well, fancy that: I did not know this, but Virgin Prunes were apparently a big inspiration to My Bloody Valentine when they started out in Dublin in the early Eighties. Viz, this Kevin Shields quote from an early 90s issue of Guitar World
"I suppose another early influence, especially on the Irish scene was Gavin Friday and the whole Virgin Prunes thing. The Prunes existed as this loose band who'd just go off on tangents and do weird things. They used things like string machines and all these crazy instruments but they were very liberating to anyone brought up on conventional radio fodder which was all that was about. For about two years in the early '80s they were the most amazing thing anywhere. Their moment was perfectly timed for us and we owe a great deal to their sense of adventure in music. They used to make a lot of tapes that they never released but got played on pirate radio stations and we used to tune in and get real inspiration. They were the prototype of what My Bloody Valentine are about. It was all about challenging what had gone before. They didn't do anything the conventional way and on top of it all they made great music."
Pirate radio stations? In Dublin?! Playing experimental postpunk noise?!?!? How intriguing...
Virgin Prunes released a series of Eps on Rough Trade titled ‘A New Form of Beauty’. It was actually just part of an ambitious art project. Initially it was conceived to go as follow: A New Form of beauty #1 = a seven inch single, #2 = 10 inch EP, #3 = 12 inch EP and 36 minutes long, #4 = live cassette, #5 = a special live performance, #6 = a video, and # 7 = a book. Not sure how far they got with this or where it went derailed but the actual culmination came with an art gallery installation in Dublin as described in Rip It Up.
> Sean nós
The following borrowed from Wikipedia:
"Sean nós is a highly-ornamented style of solo, unaccompanied singing in the Irish tradition. Sean nós literally means old style, therefore it is incorrect to say "the sean nós style", but more correct simply to refer to something as sean nós.Sean nós songs can relatively simple in structure, though some are long, highly stylised and melodically complex, but good performance typically involves substantial ornamental and rhythmic variation from verse to verse. A number of songs, especially older ones, can be modal as opposed to diatonic in melody, presenting problems for singers unaccustomed to the 'layout' of modal scales. Some melodies properly incorporate slightly larger or smaller intervals than the western standard, but it rare to hear them performed properly in the 21st century. Sean Nós can be applied to songs in English or Irish, as it is the method of singing which is distinctive and not the lyrics, but some purists still insist that songs in the English language cannot be regarded as belonging to the tradition…. New composition is a controversial issue within Sean Nós singing, with some singers insisting that the tradition needs new material but others saying that only older, "purer" songs deserve a place in the extensive corpus of sean nós songs… Apart from stylistic decoration, which itself varies from region to region, other features of sean nós singing include nasalisation, especially in Ulster, a more specific nasalisation towards the end of a phrase in the south, leding to the addition of an "n" or "ng" sound at the end of words, "slides" or glissandi, especially when sung by women, glottal stops, extreme breath control leading to almost impossibly long extended phrases, and for some songs recitation of the last line as opposed to singing."
>the Bowie-clone tag
Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash recalled for Seconds magazine how he and singer Pete Murphy had worshipped Ziggy-era Bowie: “It wasn't a sexual thing, it was aesthetic, a beautiful thing to look at. It was so androgynous… For me it was like I'd never seen that before, some sort of alien --is it male or female? Real fascinating.”
>Portentous and preposterous
A ripe gibberish typically puked up on the spot in the studio: “If I haven't written any, I just turn the microphone on and sing and words will just come out,” Pete Murphy admitted.
>“It's important… element”
Murphy, MM 1998, at
>“sugarshit… searing noise”
Coleman. NME 3/15/80.
Unattributed quote, NME 11/15/80.
Killing Joke's first single Turn To Red/Nervous System/Are you receiving
>vaguely political... micro-ads
Like this one for Malicious Damage their early record label
>"the feeling… Killing Joke"
Coleman. Sounds 1/31/81
killing joke's first album, self-titled
>“I’ll give it eighteen months”
>“the period… moment”
Coleman. NME 11/15/80.
jaz coleman on stage
>“I see a… heart”
Coleman. NME 8/20/83
>“Fire to me is…. underestimated”
Killing Joke's fourth album
>“The violence… violence”
Coleman. NME 2/27/82.
>Brave New Soldiers
Kirk Brandon: “As far as I can see the only celebration of youth left to kids today is war. And that’s what this is all about–the danger of that situation”.
>Drugs weren’t especially important on the scene
Or at least, they were no more prevalent than other postpunk scenes; there wasn’t a particular Goth drug-of-choice that had a creative interface with the music. “At the start loads of people experimented with Tuinol,” says Mick Mercer, referring to a brand of barbiturate. Instead of mellowing people out, though, “it made them psychotic, they’d end up fighting their friends.” For the most part, Goth was fueled by that old stand-by of the era, cheap ‘n’ nasty amphetamine sulphate, and by the Goth tipple ‘snakebite’--a potently intoxicating blend of cider and lager often tinted a garish purple hue by the addition of blackcurrant juice.
>defiantly rockist… embracing American imagery
Sisters of Mercy versus New Pop: they'd assimilated the anti-New Pop chatter audible in certain quarters of the music press. Most notable of these dissidents was NME’s Barney Hoskyns, the paper’s great champion of the Birthday Party and other forms of sonic sickness and dirt. Positioning himself as the anti-Morley, Hoskyns showered bands like ABC with abuse and proudly used the word “rock” as a positive term--an absolutely heretical stance in 1982’s NME.
Here's the key section from Barney Hoskyns's first big piece on The Birthday Party, a band profile cum manifesto against New Pop, and a piece of writing that literally changed my life. The full piece is here
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY arrived in England just as the last, perhaps most intense vestiges of punk energy were burning themselves out. When the Pop Group split, the whole thing – the anger, the revolt, the sensuality – went into a coma. Perhaps most unfortunate, the influence of brilliant groups like Joy Division and brilliant individuals like Daniel Miller was partly responsible. They inadvertently changed countless bands and musicians who were incapable of absorbing and using that influence to any effect. The Birthday Party, in dismay, had to watch this almost inevitable breakdown unfold.
By 1979, a new but fatally unclear concept of "Pop" had taken hold of the nation’s alternative music scene. Today this meta-pop has become the actual state of pop, an ideal for some, a living death for others.
Certainly there’s no reason why inoffensive music as produced by electronic groups like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell shouldn’t co-exist with an aggressive alternative to chart music. But what the Spandau hype has done is to brainwash people into formulating a nouveau-glam capitalist ethic which, to put it bluntly, stinks. The music, cushioned in a kind of feebly opulent production, is the pure expression of this ethic, an ethic of adaptation to an environment that ensconces one in plasticine beauty and soft, smooth luxury – the environment of nightclubs, fashion shows, and videos.
Of course there will, and must always be, fluctuations in the state of musical angst. It’s not something that can be topped up when depleted. But why does England have this hang-up about real musical violence – that is, a music that is neither Saxon nor the UK Subs, that has soul and dirt and physical desire?
In the end, one can only conclude that it has something to do with the stranglehold the music press has on youth’s cool minority. After all, look what happens to a band when it refuses to co-operate. Look what happened to the Saints when, like a circus animal refusing to play dead, they wouldn’t play "punk".
Fortunately for The Birthday Party, they’ve taken the heritage of the Saints into another dimension, and won the kind of critical approval whose terms simply don’t apply to the likes of Spandau Ballet. 'Release The Bats’, a "voodoo rockabilly" anthem which knocks the Cramps into the shadows of complete insignificance, saw three weeks at the top of the alternative singles chart. Prayers On Fire has been in the indie LP charts ever since its release. And attendance at London gigs has been growing all the time.
After the year of "Pop", 1980 – a miserable year spent trying to fit in with the new nonchalance – The Birthday Party realised the only solution was... TO ATTACK.
"MY BODY IS A MONSTER DRIVEN INSANE, MY HEART IS A FISH TOASTED BY FLAMES."
A CONCERT BY the Birthday Party – Nicholas Cave (vocals), Rowland Howard (guitar), Mick Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Tracy Pew (bass) and Phil Calvert (drums) – can break and dissolve the semantic frame which supports this language. In it you can forget for maybe an hour all the other names and categories that flood forward in the name of Pop to imprison your emotions.
Have we not all secretly yearned, since the deaths of those beings whose bodies, while they could not contain their own desires, diffracted and melted ours in the passing heat of their majesty – the bodies and voices of Hendrix, Joplin, Curtis – for that pure incandescence of being wherein we might at last yield up the barricades of knowledge?
What we must lose now is this insidious, corrosive knowingness, this need to collect and contain. We must use our brains that have been stopped and plugged with random information, and once again must our limbs carve in air the patterns of their desire – not the calibrated measures and slick syncopation of jazz-funk but a carnal music of total release. WE MUST MAKE OF JOY ONCE MORE A CRIME AGAINST THE STATE!
Is it possible for the tirelessly rational system which is "popular" music ever to GO BACK ON ITS WORDS? Or has this music become so cogniscant and inter-referential that all desire for escape and release has been extinguished? Will we never be "lost in music"?
These questions must be asked. For if music is no more than cultural reference-point, THEN IT IS NOTHING.
And here's another Barney Hoskyns piece on Birthday Party, a live review
a key paragraph:
This group is an explosion of sensuality and laughter at the desensitized mediocrity of our lives. They are our new Rolling Stones, but holding back their profiles in shadow, in the penumbra of myth. In them jazz races with punk and rock 'n' roll slips on funk, a collision of forms whose domain is just suspended in the timeless zone of excess – bodily exhumation and spiritual disease. Here Jerry Lee Lewis meets The Modern Dance, and sex meets death.
>“There’s an awful… loudly”, “relentlessness”
Eldritch. East Village Eye, December 1983/January 1984
>but Iggy was a forgotten boy
NME, former stomping ground of Nick Kent, was desperately trying to turn itself into a cross between The Face and Collusion
The Sisters of Mercy name came from a Cohen song, where the phrase referred to prostitutes.
Shamefully, 2003 saw Ian Astbury joining “the Doors” -- Ray Manzarek and Robbie Kkrieger -- as their surrogate for Jim Morrison, (doubtlessly rotating at a rapid clip in his Pere Lachaise grave)
Documentary on The Batcave for Danish TV (with completely inappropriate music)
another documentary on the Batcave
Mick Mercer's empire of all things Goth
Dominic Fox on Goth and dysphoria
Richard North's memoir of being a punk in Luton
website for UK Decay -- seminal proto-Goth band who i was quite impressed with live (supporting Killing Joke in Dunstable, I forget which) but whose records are tad disappointing heard today
Damn near all my writing on The Birthday Party at ReynoldsRetro
Me on the deluxe double-CD reissue of The Scream
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Scream: The Deluxe Edition
by Simon Reynolds
Knowing Siouxsie as Godmother of Goth, it’s easy to forget that the Banshees were originally regarded as exemplary postpunk vanguardists. Laceratingly angular,
The Scream reminds you what an inclement listen the group was at the start. Sure, there’s a couple of Scream tunes as catchy as “Hong Kong Garden” (which appears twice here on the alternate-versions-crammed second disc of BBC session and demos). “Mirage” is a cousin to “Public Image,” while the buzzsaw chord-drive of “Nicotine Stain” faintly resembles The Undertones, of all people. But one’s first and lasting impression of Scream is shaped by the album’s being book-ended by its least conventional tunes. Glinting and fractured, the opener “Pure” is an “instrumental” in the sense that Siouxsie’s voice is just an abstract, sculpted texture swooping across the stereo-field. Switching between serrated starkness and sax-laced grandeur, the final track “Switch” is closer to a song but as structurally unorthodox as Roxy Music’s “If There Is Something”.
Glam’s an obvious reference point for the Banshees, but The Scream also draws from the moment when psychedelia turned dark: “Helter Skelter” is covered (surely as much for the Manson connection as for Beatles-love), guitarist John McKay’s flange resembles a Cold Wave update of 1967-style phasing, and the stringent stridency of Siouxsie’s singing channels Grace Slick. In songs like the autism-inspired “Jigsaw Feeling,” there’s even a vibe of mental disintegration that recalls bad trippy Jefferson Airplane tunes like “Two Heads.” Another crack-up song, “Suburban Relapse” always makes me think of that middle-aged housewife in every neighbourhood with badly applied make-up and a scary lost look in her eyes. Siouxsie’s suspicion not just of domesticity but of that other female cage, the body, comes through in the fear-of-flesh anthem “Metal Postcard,” whose exaltation of the inorganic and indestructible (“metal is tough, metal will sheen… metal will rule in my master-scheme”) seems at odds with the song’s inspiration, the anti-fascist collage artist John Heartfield.
Scream is another Banshees altogether from the lush seductions of Kaleidoscope and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse. McKay and drummer Kenny Morris infamously quit the group on the eve of the band’s first headlining tour, and their replacements--John McGeoch and Budgie--were far more musically proficient. Yet The Scream, along with early singles such as ‘Staircase Mystery” and the best bits of Join Hands, does momentarily make you wonder about the alternate-universe path the original Banshees might have pursued if they’d stayed together and stayed monochrome ‘n’ minimal.
Passage from The Sex Revolts on Siouxsie's shift from being the ice queen to the decadent/deliquescent "melting (wo)man" of A Kiss In the Dreamhouse
If Nico felt herself stranded in the desert, then Siouxsie Sioux's renunciation of oceanic feelings was a means to power. The first Banshees album, The Scream (1978), contains some of the most unfluid, fleshless rock music ever created, stringent and staccato. 'Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)' fetishises the inhuman perfection of metal, which Siouxsie declares will 'rule in my master scheme'. 'Jigsaw Feeling' explores sensations of alienation from the body: the imagery of fractured organs and limbs, the sense of a disassembled bodily identity, resembles the hysterical un-body that figures in Lydia Lunch's songs. In 'Jigsaw Feeling', the Ice Queen cracks up: Siouxsie oscillates between 'feeling total' and being 'split in two'. It is only her dazzling, frozen exteriority that keeps the psychotic interior contained. Later in her career, songs like 'Christine' and 'Eve White/Eve Black' dramatise the schizophrenic's struggle not to 'shatter kaleidoscope-style'.
'Regal Zone' (from 1979's Join Hands) is the ultimate ice statement: Siouxsie stands 'alone in a Regal Zone', erect and intimidating. Similarly,Siouxsie's early image--S/M dominatrix clothes, peek-a-boo bras that exposed the breast but were far from titillating--invited the voyeuristic gaze only to punish it. Her image, her sangfroid vocals, her commanding demeanour all signify 'Look, Don't Touch'. Siouxsie doesn't want to be made of fleisch (that evocative German word that means both flesh and meat), she wants to be made of metal or ice, impenetrable, invulnerable.
This desire to be obelisk or basilisk (the mythological cold-blooded reptile
whose glance was lethal) had a sinister side. Siouxsie wasn't just the first
woman to take on glam rock's androgyny; in the early days of the Banshees, she also followed through glam's flirtation with fascism, to the point of wearing a swastika. For most punks, the swastika was a shock tactic or cheap nihilism, but for Siouxsie, fascism's fascination seems to have run a little deeper. In a 1985 interview with Blitz, she recalled that 'when I was fifteenor sixteen I used to go out of my way to have very unattractive hairstyles, very short, geometrically very ugly, cropped and very frightening to the opposite sex... I think I always knew the way I wanted to live... was completely as a fascist. I mean, I call myself a fascist personally, I like everything my own way.'
Monumentalism--the desire to be as imposing as a statue--is proto-fascist
because it's a flight from the liquidity of female biology, of nature. Like the Futurists, Siouxsie's aesthetic fetishised stark contours and severance; in 'Desert Kisses' (from 1980's Kaleidoscope) she even wrote a song of outright hydrophobia, where 'tidal fingers' hold her in their 'deadly grip'. Although she gradually distanced herself from the Banshees' early flirtation with fascism, Sioux continued to take on magisterial and forbidding female archetypes, like the dominatrix and the witch. On 'Arabian Knights' (from Juju, 1981), she updates Grace Slick's posture of the stern matriarch who passes judgment on men's wicked ways, excoriating Islam's patriarchal enslavement of women behind the veils of purdah, where they're reduced to the role of 'baby machines'. In 'Monitor' she's an imperious dominatrix, commanding her plaything to 'sit back and enjoy'.
As her career developed, Siouxsie found her way to more 'feminine' images
of power. At the same time--surely no coincidence--her lyrics ooze moisture.
With A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982), the Ice Queen melts; proto-fascist rigour softens into luxuriant, langorous decadence. From the ornamented Klimt-inspired cover image to the heady haze of neo-psychedelic sound, the album was all lush sensuality and blissful blur. The opening 'Cascade' has Siouxsie enswirled in droplets of fragrant sound, 'like liquid falling'. In 'Green Fingers', Siouxsie's even able to imagine women's proximity to nature as a magical source of strength, not vulnerability. Supernaturalism rather than anti-naturalism becomes the new model for the Banshees, as the earthly lore of the witch supersedes the glacial terrorism of the Ice Queen. With its Rites-of-Pan flute, 'Green Fingers' recalls the psychedelic classic 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' by the United States of America, in which Dorothy Moskowitz sings ominously of 'venomous blossoms' and 'omnivorous orchids' that lurk within a girl's eyes; love is a Venus fly-trap whose nectar lures man to a sticky end.
Siouxsie revels in similar imagery of deadly voluptuousness in 'Melt', where sex is blissful bondage, 'tiny deaths' that leave the man 'beheaded'. 'Slowdive' imagines swimming and swooning in carnal confusion, taking the plunge into the uncontrol of desire, bathing in flesh. 'She's A Carnival' offers a less sinister vision of the psychic fragmentation that once threatened Siouxsie. She celebrates the idea of the self as a benignly chaotic polyphony of unruly desires and clamorous voices. Fascism fears the mob, but in 'She's a Carnival' Siouxsie imagines mingling and merging with a festive multitude, in the spirit of Dionysus. Where once Siouxsie's musical alter-egos were sharply etched against the landscape, now she spins in a 'dizzy haze', and her forbidding glare is replaced by a smile like 'Mardi Gras'.
On the next album, Hyaena (1984), 'Swimming Horses' is outright oceanic
rock, a song inspired by seahorses. Still, Siouxsie's interest in gender-bending (women should be strong, men should be as weak as the incapacitated, 'melting man' of 'Melt') persists: Siouxsie was struck by the fact that it's the male of the seahorse species that gives birth. She clearly likes the idea of women being freed of the burden of fecundity. By 1991's Superstition, Siouxsie completed her trajectory from the vampire woman of her Goth goddess prime, to the vamp of 'Kiss Them For Me'. Here, Siouxsie modeled herself on '40s movie idols like Rita Hayworth, who played strong and sometimes sinister female roles.
Me on the Birthday Party's Prayers on Fire
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
Prayers on Fire
by Simon Reynolds
From Melbourne, Australia, the Birthday Party started out as an art-rocky New Wave outfit, The Boys Next Door, then abruptly mutated into something altogether less precious and more primal. Throughout Prayers, drummer Phil Calvert combines caveman brutality and an almost jazzy lightness of touch; Tracy Pew’s bass shifts from z Stooges-like pummel to treacherous ooziness; Rowland S. Howard’s guitar coughs up mutilated melody and acrid noise in equal measure; pianist Mick Harvey daubs the songs with carny-show hues of seediness and grotesquerie. Singer Nick Cave pokes fun at his own compulsion to make an Iggy-like exhibition of himself onstage with the merciless portrait-of-the-artist “Nick the Stripper.” “Zoo Music Girl” is a percussive frenzy of love’n’lust with lyrics--“I kiss the hem of her skirt/We spend our lives in a box full of dirt”--that suggest a bipolar madonna/whore complex, while the abject imagery and glutinous feel of songs like “King Ink” and “Yard” suggest a deep revulsion at the fleshly nature of human existence. The Birthday Party felt that Prayers failed to capture the cacophonous bedlam of their live shows, but, along with their final EPs The Bad Seed and Mutiny, this is The Birthday Party at their most listenable.
Me on Bauhaus's "Bela Lugosi's Dead"
Bela Lugosi’s Dead
By Simon Reynolds
For better or worse, Goth is one of postpunk’s lasting legacies, and “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, the debut single by Bauhaus, is regarded as the genre’s founding moment. At this point, however, the group had yet to fully shake off the influence of postpunk avatars such as PiL and Joy Division, and so “Bela” combines rocky-horror camp with thrillingly metallic guitar and fashionable dub-style echo. As with Joy Division’s famously reverb-shrouded production, though, the effect is evocative of a Jamaican sound-system party and more of the dank cold of a crypt in a Warsaw cemetery. Inappropriately named (Bauhaus had far less in common with that austere school of modernist architecture than they did with German expressionist cinema, all flickering shadows and over-ripe menace), the group subsequently squeezed out a run of enjoyable, if empty, singles, including covers of songs by their glam idols Marc Bolan and David Bowie. But truthfully, “Bela” was Bauhaus’ one true moment of glory.
Me on Rhino's Goth rock box set A Life Less Lived
A Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box (Rhino)
director's cut, Blender 2006
by Simon Reynolds
That maniacal cackling is the gleeful sound of a genre having the last laugh. Mocked by most the minute it crawled from its crypt at the dawn of the Eighties, Goth has proved to be one of the wilder success stories of postpunk culture. In its purest form, the scene thrives as a globe-spanning underground. But more remarkable than its sheer subcultural staying power is the extent to which Goth’s tentacles have wormed their way into the mainstream. You can see and hear its imprint on modern metal, from the campy horror romps of Avenged Sevenfold to the wintry worldview of AFI (who who named their fan club The Despair Faction and appear on this four-disc box set covering the Cure’s “Hanging Garden”). Goth’s genes are equally discernible in emo’s eyeliner misery boys such as My Chemical Romance and Panic! At the Disco, with their “any color so long as it’s black” clothing and vocal echoes of mope-rocker supreme Robert Smith. But the genre’s impact has spread far beyond music, touching everything from film (Tim Burton’s entire oeuvre, practically) to fiction, fashion, and art.
What is the secret of Goth’s persistence? Maybe it’s the way the Goth look fuses glamour and being an outsider, just as the scene’s tribalism reconciles the desire to be apart with the longing for community. Goth’s perennial allure also has a lot to do with the way the epic music and tortured lyrics give majesty to moroseness, elevating and ennobling adolescent angst. Above all, Goth is dead sexy, something this box set foregrounds with its kinky leather-and-laces packaging, modeled on a Gothette’s black bodice or thigh-length boot. Raven-haired and pallid, Goth’s ideal of erotic beauty is different to the mainstream’s (blonde, glowingly healthy, vivacious) and offers an empowering alternative for girls into being enigmatic and unapproachable while ooking to keep all the fun aspects of self-beautification and adornment.
That scary-seductive she-Goth look was invented by Siouxsie Sioux (with a little help from Morticia Adams). Siouxsie & the Banshees 1981 album Juju, represented on this box by its tumultuous single “Spellbound”, set the sonic template for the Goth explosion that followed two years later. But one thing A Life Less Lived makes abundantly clear is that the most adventurous Goth music was made in the genre’s emergent phase, before it became a codified style--before it was even called Goth in fact. It’s startling to hear how wide-open this proto-Goth sound actually was, from the doom-funk stampede of Killing Joke’s “Tomorrow’s World” to the dub reggae infused clangour and cavernous hollows of Bauhuaus’ 1979 debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which appears here in video form on the set’s DVD disc. Even the later “She’s In Parties” has a discernible loping skank feel amid its metallic noise, then enters a full-on dub coda of ambushing volleys of studio-warped noise and deep rumbling bass
What united the Goth bands was a common ancestry in glam rock. Bauhaus and the Banshees covered T. Rex tunes and you can hear blatant traces of David Bowie’s mannered delivery in Bauhaus’ singer Peter Murphy and in Gavin Friday, frontman of Virgin Prunes (represented here by “Pagan Lovesong”). More than Bowie or Bolan, though, it was Alice Cooper who was the true ungodly godfather of Goth, his grisly theatrics and black humor blazing the trail for the likes of Christian Death and Specimen. A more highbrow, selfconsciously poetic take on the blasphemy/debauchery combo came from The Birthday Party, whose “Mutiny In Heaven” is a grotesquely gripping sound-painting daubed with guitars that sound like they’re covered in sores and boils, the garishly vivid illustration to singer Nick Cave’s imagery of junkie squalor and “rats in paradise”.
Like many of the groups who inspired Goth, the Birthday Party fiercely resisted being tarred with its brush. Then and now, the problem with Goth is that a lot of it was simply defective as rock music, or, if not actively bad, then desperately ordinary beneath its glad rags of otherworldly mystery and underworldly menace. The most glaring deficiencies typically lay in the vocal department (singers tending toward operatic portentousness or cadaverous dirge-droning) and the rhythm section (the drummers either mustering a stiff plod or attempting a “tribal” feel by overdoing the tom-tom rolls). Some groups, like Sisters of Mercy and Alien Sex Fiend, dispensed with human-powered beats altogether in favour of drum machines. Others were so lacking in rhythmic feel or flair--the null trudge of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, the numb trance of Danse Society’s disco-Goth--they might as well have been using mechanical beats.
A Life Less Lived is undone by its own conscientious attempt to be fully representative of its genre. What would normally be a virtue becomes a liability, because Goth has always generated as much sonic evidence for the prosecution as for the defence. Perhaps that’s why the selection is bolstered by some unlikely inclusions, like Echo & the Bunnymen’s “All My Colours” (doomily intoned but hardly Goth) and Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Fall” (which seemingly qualifies because it’s from an album entitled Darklands). When three of the best tracks—by Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende Neubauten, and Skinny Puppy—come from a genre, industrial, that’s adjacent to Goth but very much a separate entity…. well, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that there’s simply not enough good-to-great Goth out there to fill up four CDs.
Me interviewing Siouxsie and Budgie as the Creatures
The Observer, 1990
by Simon Reynolds
From her punk beginnings as style terrorist through her early Eighties reign as godmother of 'Goth' to the almost motherly figure she now presents, Siouxsie's career with her group The Banshees has seen her pass through a fascinating array of personas.
There has even been the occasional alter ego. In 1981 she formed The Creatures with Banshees' drummer Budgie. Despite the abrasive minimalism of their sound (just vocals and percussion), a contrast to the lurid rock of The Banshees, The Creatures scored a series of hits ranging from the bacchanalian 'Mad-Eyed Screamer' to their melodramatic cover of Mel Torme's 'Right Now' in July 1983.
Now, after six years of hibernation, Siouxsie and Budgie have reactivated The Creatures. Siouxsie explains this latest extra-curricular excursion: "The Banshees carry a lot of luggage in terms of what they mean to our audience, and it's difficult to write in a spontaneous way for an established group format. Your ideas have to be mediated through other people. "With The Creatures, things are less precious, so there's less at stake now."
The Creatures' 1983 debut album, Feast, was recorded in Hawaii. For the follow-up, Boomerang (just released), the duo once again fled the 'battery hen' schedules of London studios. They transported a mobile studio to a ranch in rural Spain, just north of Cadiz. "When you're cut off, you react more instinctively. We recorded the album in the heart of a rural community, with their age-old superstitions and their love of the bullfight."
The Creatures' single, 'Standing There', is a product of Siouxsie's mixed feelings for Spanish culture. Her admiration for the flamboyance and female strength of flamenco is countered by a disgust for bullfighting. "I see it as glorified slaughter, I don't go along with the romanticisation of rural life. If you look at country people's relation to nature, you can see that they're almost at war with it, trying to make it do what they want it to."
Now vegetarian, Siouxsie's conversion came "partly through touring, being provided with backstage food and seeing all the day-to-day waste, the bucketloads of chicken drumsticks." Giving up meat was just one facet of "a whole cleansing and rethinking" of body and soul around 1985 that involved also giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol and taking up circuit training. "Growing up and adolescence last way beyond your teens, and after a while you find it frustrating that you can't harness your energies. I've always wanted to be in control of myself."
Now 31, the new holistic Siouxsie seems odd when, in both the Banshees and The Creatures, she has always been interested in people who can't control themselves; the obsessive, the disturbed, the unbalanced. For a herbivore, Siouxsie's music has strangely preyed on listeners' fears.
"I think that's putting the aggression in the right channel, using it to create rather than destroy. Everyone has demons. Unless they're allowed an outlet they fester and eat away at your body."
For over a decade, Siouxsie has been one of the few challenging female icons to maintain a high profile in the pop mainstream. "I'd hate to be thought of as a role model, but pop culture has always been geared to presenting one view of the female – blonde, manipulated, pliable. Maybe my having black hair and being like Beryl the Peril provides another archetype for people to use."
Siouxsie seems to belong to the Gyn/Ecology school of feminism. Does she believe that women have a monopoly on caring and men a monopoly on destruction?
"No, but the male performer has been done to death. The female artists who are now acquiring the kind of control and self-expression hitherto the preserve of men are producing the only new music around. I think that the female is the future because she's not violent or as territorial, as inclined towards conflict that leads to either big-scale war or pub-room barracking. Man, in the traditional sense, is like a dinosaur. A dying breed."
All non-pictorial contents copyright Simon Reynolds unless otherwise indicated