Unknown source 1981  
  Once Upon A Time Poster Click Here For Bigger ScanI'm tempted towards sarcasm on sight of this record.  For artisans so dedicated to bypassing the procedures inherent in, in the words of Mr Morley's brief sleevenote, 'the quaking rocks of a fragmenting pop culture', the gesture of a hits package shaped up for the Christmas market seeps with nefariously disguised (calling it 'The Singles', a designation as some religious adjunct to the Banshees album collection; and plastering the back cover with childishly sinister doll's faces, the by now obligatory nod to their obsession with menace in the nursery) commercial intent.  Let me not be Scrooge this week though.

'Once Upon A Time' has to stand on it's contents: from 'Hong Kong Garden' to 'Arabian Knights', nine A sides (including the faked notoriety of 'Love In A Void', which now sounds like a Cramps type thrash) plus 'Mirage' from 'The Scream'.  The tune is a bitter one, unsweetened by a charming melody or blandishments of forgiveness.  Sioux and her troupers have never ones to make it easy for their public.  Or have they?

I listen and I listen and I hear the sound of pretence.  Pretending is a primary element in pop's illusory game - how else can feelings be interchanged so readily? - and the Banshees have never turned it away.  All of these songs play tag with Nightmare, alienation, the cruel and the unnatural; they never embrace them.  This is the stuff of which pop hits are made, not the awful scouring of the soul..

Perhaps that particular joke is on us, though laughs are not to be found in abundance here.  The oppressive seriousness is one thing that weakens this collection - a po-faced delineation of strangeness which almost creaks on 'Mirage' and 'The Staircase (Mystery)',  The sheer greyness of the playing is another.  Again, early Banshees seemed to be only toying with some transfixed madness which they found impossible to articulate - this wasn't thrillingly enigmatic, only indigestible obtuse.  

All that changed of course, with the exit of McKay and Morris.  Any of the tracks on side two, starting with the intriguingly open - ended 'Happy House', beat the first side's maundering guitar churn hollow (with the honourable exception of 'Hong Kong Garden', a two chord enchantment that fluked by on self determination - the Banshees' debut was going to be so brilliant that it very nearly was).  'Christine' and 'Israel' showed how much they'd learned about space.  Everything sounds glassily clear; instead of the miserable opacity of the Mark 1 Banshees, every strand is definable.  In 'Spellbound' with it's pelting cascade of acoustic chords, they found a song of almost glamorous quality.  'Arabian Knights' is not quite so good, but it is scenting after something greater - an aspiration I could never hear before.

After all they now have a musician of some excellence in their fold.  Few could match the insistent intelligence and diversity which John McGeoch brings to these few tracks.  Even the singer, still tide up in her role of Snow White in the netherworld of suppressed emotions, has progressed to expand on an idea of singing which once choked on it's own privacy.

The Banshees' history to date, a significance over emphasised.  It does show a growth from calumny of wilful unattractiveness to an almost wistful foreboding.  Whether you see it as a palliative in any way might depend on how much faith you place in prestidigitation.  Let's pretend.  

Richard Cook



  Flexipop 1981  
  Once Upon A Time Advert Click Here For Bigger ScanHope Santa was good to you.  Hope he brought you this sublime selection of Banshee brilliants.  Their greatest hits of course.  Terrific tunes tracing the traumatic trail from bawling Banshees babyhood; 'Love In A void', through a 'Hong Kong Garden' to the mighty Sioux she/they are now, cue 'Spellbound'.  Cue some magic music.

SOUNDS said:  "Their songs are haughty but haunting, a vortex of darkly rhythmic music full of shadows and nightmares, always strangely contagious and nearly always brilliant.  But their pose sucks.  Music this good deserves better."

NME said:  "Sioux and her troupers have never been ones to make it easy for her public or have they?  This is the stuff of which pop hits are made not the awful scouring of the soul."

MELODY MAKER said:  "They're all brilliant of course, unmistakeable Sioux; ponderous, poignant, once petrifying, now pretty (and) peculiar.  Look I shouldn't have to tell you this.  If you haven't got these already, you're really not worth knowing."

FLEXIPOP says:  Another sell-out for Siouxsie.  Look we don't even have to tell you to go out and buy this... do we?