|JUJU - ADVERTS/REVIEWS|
|Record Mirror 20/06/81|
to the magical singles double of the psychedelic 'Christine' and the
awesome 'Israel', I hadn't been a particular fan of the Banshees, finding
their brand of power - driven gloom somewhat less than palatable.
That brace of gems alerted my ideas about them, however, and I approached
this record with a good deal of curiosity. I was looking for a
lighter touch than they'd shown on their previous LPs; my hopes were
partly fulfilled but partly disappointed.
Side one begins with 'Spellbound', which has improved with further listening but still sounds, as it first did, rather like a poor cousin of 'Israel'. Still, this is the Banshees sound that I find most appealing; drums at the steady gallop, acoustic guitars and a few catchy phrases.
'Into The Light' gets bogged down in its nagging, repetitive rhythm. I hate to labour the point, but a lighter, defter touch would have redeemed it. It could have been insistent, but it becomes simply boring. 'Arabian Knights' and 'Halloween' are more successful - although both suffer from lyrics which descend into the realms of fifth-form poetry.
'Monitor' is the side's most successful track; on it an intriguing set of lyrics combine with John McGeoch's guitar work (excellent throughout) to create a genuinely menacing effect.
Side two, however, degenerates into the sort of stuff you either adore the Banshees for or find nigh - on unlistenable. Siouxsie's unvarying wail reduces even the best musical moments provided by her undeniably talented cohorts to a painful dirge.
The closing song is 'Voodoo Dolly', obviously intended as the Big Number. Yet again, the music is effective, although goodness knows it should be, since they never seem to stray from the sinister in their choice of subject matter. What about joy, passion, tenderness? This obsession with the dark begins to seem immature, like a schoolgirl's fascination with the occult. And however well executed the music, the voice drags it down to one dimension. There's a stylised sort of emotion in that voice, but no humanity.
Closing comment? "A must for Siouxsie fans," I suppose.
3½ out of 5
Susan Dallion and her panda-eyed cohorts ought to be remembered as the
UK's most consistent post-punk singles band after Madness, the
legitimisation of Goth remains their 18-year legacy. The
commercial epitome of charity-shop occultism, their output was always
signposted by Vampire Circus imagery, but Juju, following Kaleidoscope's
pop rebirth, drapes its requisite two hits in some truly disturbing
Halloween shtick ("Fuck the mothers, kill the others").
John McGeoch's voodoo guitar could raise the dead.
Best Tracks: Spellbound, Monitor, Halloween
Most Gothic Moment: The chilling graveyard intro into Night Shift ("I see you in darkness, I feel you")
this always to be known as the 'Goth' album? What is Goth? Goth to me is
a joke, jokey bands, mannered singing, lyrics out of medical journals
and six-form poetry. Yes Juju is dark; there is an underlying theme. But
I feel it's necessary to hear what the Banshees have said about it. Spellbound is NOT
witches and sorcery, but the wonders of magic, or rather something magical.
Perhaps the titles are misleading. Does anyone actually think Voodoo Dolly
is about Voodoo? Surely it refers to an unhealthy addiction, a
So why did the Banshees go back to basics on this album? Back to the guitar, bass, drum sound? Night Shift is a masterpiece of brooding intensity dealing with an uncomfortable subject matter (Peter Sutcliffe) something the Banshees excel at. And Night Shift when played live always seemed to be followed by Sin In My Heart. Is this in fact a two-piece suite?, I can't hear one without hearing the other. Again Nigel Gray's production is crisp and spacey, but what happened to Arabian Knights? Was it recorded underwater? The twelve-inch version with the added vocoder is superior.
Halloween is pure Pop and Goth parody and probably the reason for the Goth labels.
Into The Light. Nigel Gray finally gets some Police guitar sounds out of them; this would have been an excellent single. I always thought Arabian Knights was an odd choice, but again it's something the Banshees did well, not kowtowing to popular perception.
Of course it was now that The Creatures were born. How would But Not Them have sounded on Juju, what if guitar had been added?
The Banshees sense of humour is once again brought to the surface with this album, albeit overlooked by most people.
And couldn't Follow The Sun have been a Creatures track?
The album cover? What were they thinking of? What does it mean? Something along the lines of the single picture covers would have been more apt. My least favourite album cover ever!!!
Siouxsie voice is definitely reaching its peak during this time and is in perfect unison with the music.
Goth? pah!!! But Siouxsie's witchy look didn't help matters.
Israel could have sat well with this album, more so than with its predecessor, but once again, Israel and its accompaniment Red Over White are pieces that deserve to be heard separately.
Of course I watched
Of The Pops last week. It was poor, it's going in four week
cycles at the moment, the good, the bad, the sagging, the so so, but
Siouxsie & The Banshees were on. A savage gloss, a slashing
glamour amidst the tepid turns, a turn on like few others. The
Banshees are a terrific vision, an exclusive attraction, a peak in
entertainment, Siouxsie & The Banshees, the toy display of hair,
skirt, boys, vanity, flash, thigh, smile, cheek to cheek, back to back,
are a discerning and devious distortion of the Pop Group that can
be traced back to The Velvet Underground, Hendrix, The Doors and the
dark side of Bolan; never wise or mellow, meek or smutty, sweet or
"significant". None of this romantic desire for
action. There is nothing earthy about Banshee music, and nothing
gives. Their fourth LP, this far, their second best?, is a
gliding, comfortless delivery of self-distrust, infatuation and
fetishism. "Juju" has an infernal quality: nothing
majestic or mysterious but a kind of unawed unworldliness. The
mistake is to imagine that Banshee words and images are intended to be
profound and responsible, or brutally corrective. "Juju"
songs don't deal with dull matters, but with peculiar things in a taut
and teasing manner. The words are not as imposing as people
imagine, or expect. Precise syllables and broken rhythms are used
to dramatise the music. The mastermood of a Banshee song is disapproval:
not a great intensity but an idealistic, vexed profanity. A
Banshee pop song is a bitter twist, a grave grace, more than is the
The diabolical themes the emotional poignancy and remoteness are part of the whole. It's not all a weeping over lost pleasures, neither is it a thanksgiving. Banshee words are an effective way to reject the prosaic, to avoid the vulgar and the grouping of the words, the melodramatic and choric undercurrents enable the glorious Sioux to camp and exult with priceless poise.
Side one's highlights - 'Spellbound', 'Into The Light', 'Arabian Knights', 'Halloween' and 'Monitor'. The most consistent side since 'The Scream'. Side two's highlights - 'Night Shift', 'Sin In My Heart', 'Head Cut' and 'Voodoo Dolly'. 'Juju' is the first integrated and sparkling-complete Banshees since 'The Scream'. 'Electric Warrior' to the 'Tanx' of Toyah's 'Anthem'.
|Hot Press 07/81|
line/I see it fine/into the line/our hearts entwine" (Into The
The question is - what kind of line? I always imagine Siouxsie doing line after line of crushed ice. Keep it polar. Arguably the coldest music in the top twenty. Ice maiden yeah.
It is difficult not to be drawn into an over-personal response - "Hong Kong Garden" was a single I liked greatly... but everything else was like a late '60s toothpaste trip. The forcefield of ring-of-confidence from the frosted toothpaste preserved in a block of ice...
The forcefield was the chill, and the hoh-oh halting teuton Baden-Powell campfire black tights and gymslip come-one-girls-rise-and-shine vocals which in another weird twist often reminded of Maddy Prior...
Christ, between the highway boy looks and the lefthanded glare and the metallity of the music, it all seems so dreadfully serious... but never cathartic. I have a horrible suspicion that as a general rule Siouxsie's horrors are largely Brontean. The frame of reference has far more in common with Kate Bush than many would immediately admit.
"Juju" contains songs of fascination. Right from the opener "Spellbound" - "Following the footsteps/Of a rag doll dance/We are entranced/Spellbound".
Her phrasing, almost American as the song opens, goes to the opposite extreme - entrawnced.
"Halloween", "Night Shift", "Sin In My Heart", "Head Cut" and "Voodoo Dolly" all continue the fascination with terror, and curiously antiquarian terror at that - psychosis and voodoo. Doctor Caligari.
But perhaps it's easy to misunderstand. Some people undoubtedly dance to the Banshees, and there is certainly something rivetting about Siouxsie's singlemindedly lefthanded way of banging her microphone and hup-two-three dancing. (though the cynical might suggest that was simply a habit picked up while trying to keep the original Banshees in time.) But they are no dance band, and fun and all it implies are out the window with the first frosts of autumn...
(Which is another way of saying the best time to hear this album is late at night, or better still on a snowy morning on the moors after a night of bad dreams and vulgar drink...)
At the same time Siouxsie does touch a core of fascinated horror, "Night Shift", for example, taken at a slower pace than most of the other jump-alongs, a more dynamically suggestive pace, deals out image after image of marbled gore and the strange contradiction of horror and fascination... (The crowds outside the Ripper trial, for example.)
"Head Cut" is another. A mixture of images of sculpture/woodcut and murder.
For stuff like that this album is worth hearing. It's just a pity it doesn't achieve that standard more often. I mean "Arabian Knights" is pure Barbara Cartland-type fascination. "Myriad lights/they said I'd be impressed/Arabian Knights/at your primitive best". OOOOOF.