Wednesday, February 07, 2007

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES: Juju (1981)

One of the band's masterworks, Juju 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. If not for John McGeoch's marvelous high-pitched guitars, here as reminiscent of Joy Division as his own work in Magazine, the album would rank as the band's most gothic release. 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 bandmates to push their rhythmic witches brew to poisonous levels of toxicity. 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 wailings 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. McGeoch, Budgie, and bassist Steven Severin deserve just as much credit for crafting an original sound that would inspire a diverse group of future bands from Ministry to Placebo. All the while, producer Nigel Gray maintains the sense that the album is an immediate, edgy performance unfolding right in front of the listener. The upfront intensity of Juju probably isn't matched anywhere else in the catalog of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Thanks to its killer singles, unrelenting force, and invigorating dynamics, Juju is a post-punk classic. by Tim DiGravina

Tracks: Spellbound / Into the Light / Arabian Knights / Halloween / Monitor / Nightshift / Sin in My Heart / Head Cut / Voodoo Dolly
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2 comments:

thebarguest said...

this and kaleidoscope are their
best albums.
the recent bbc album has a john peel session from this album which
is amazing ; artists on their creative peak - chilling.
this band have not done a bad album - the later stuff is great.

Anonymous said...

Personally i think this and 'A kiss in the dreamhouse' are the most artistically accomplished, while I find Kaleidoscope too fragmented, like a collection of material where apart from Happy House there's not another well written song. Juju is simply astonishing, completely focused and consistent, with probably only Halloween as slightly weaker moment. Production and instruments are absolutely personal. I dismissed Siouxsie's albums, considering the band as a good singles band and ok for atmospherics but this and Kiss are excellent works, but very different though (in A Kiss the punk element is nearly completely gone and the band creates a modern psychedelic nightmare)