[Review] Siouxsie and the Banshees: The Scream (1978)

The Banshees drag punk, kicking and screaming, into the gothic houses of their own nightmares on this early punk masterpiece.

Kronomyth 1.0: To whom much is given, Munch is expected.

It would be simple enough to say that Siouxsie and the Banshees put a female face on the Sex Pistols’ punk music and be done with it, but the band’s debut is a lot more complicated than that. The Scream set a new path forward for bands that wanted to combine the raw energy of punk with artful self-expression. The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Psychedelic Furs (among others) owe a large debt of gratitude to the Banshees. What you’ll hear on The Scream is a lurid primitivism that would soon articulate itself as gothic and post-psychedelic punk.

The group’s sound is split between the plodding, pounding rhythms of bass and drums and the atonal wailing of the voice, guitars and occasional saxophone. There’s a remarkable amount of space in between the two, which gives their debut a very open (as opposed to claustrophobic) sound. Producer Steve Lillywhite likely deserves credit for smoothing over some of the rough edges, although this remains a rougher affair than most Lillywhite productions. As to whether or not this is a classic punk record, yes, I suppose it is. “Suburban Relapse,” “Nicotine Stain,” “Jigsaw Feeling” and “Mirage” were certainly among the best punk songs one was likely to encounter in 1978.

Most of this didn’t filter to US audiences, who were more interested in boy bands: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Police, etc. In the UK, ground zero of the punk movement, The Scream attracted much more attention. Siouxsie and the Banshees were literally re-shaping the sound of bass, drums, voice and guitar for a new generation of would-be punk auteurs. The album has a few missteps—a lame cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” for example, and some girlish squeals on “ Metal Postcard” that are more Lene Lovich than Nina Hagen—but these are small sins that are easily atoned for by the album’s better cuts. Of small note, the US release of The Scream included the recent single, “Hong Kong Garden,” at the beginning of the record, which unfortunately neutralizes the otherwise powerful effect of hearing the record open with the instrumental, “Pure.”

Read more Siouxsie and the Banshees reviews

Original LP Version

*A1. Hong Kong Garden (John McKay/Kenny Morris/Steve Severin/Siouxsie Sioux) (2:59)
A2. Pure (John McKay/Kenny Morris/Steve Severin/Siouxsie Sioux) (1:49)
A3. Jigsaw Feeling (John McKay/Steve Severin) (4:36)
A4. Overground (John McKay/Steve Severin) (3:48)
A5. Carcass (Peter Fenton/Steve Severin/Siouxsie Sioux) (3:49)
A6. Helter Skelter (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) (3:45)
B1. Mirage (John McKay/Steve Severin) (2:49)
B2. Metal Postcard (Mittageisen) (John McKay/Siouxsie Sioux) (4:11)
B3. Nicotine Stain (Steve Severin/Siouxsie Sioux) (2:55)
B4. Suburban Relapse (John McKay/Siouxsie Sioux) (4:10)
B5. Switch (John McKay/Siouxsie Sioux) (6:47)

* Added to US elpee release.

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Hong Kong Garden
12. The Staircase (Mystery)

Deluxe Edition bonus disc
1. Make Up To Break Up
2. Love In A Void
3. Mirage
4. Metal Postcard
5. Suburban Relapse
6. Hong Kong Garden
7. Overground
8. Carcass
9. Helter Skelter
10. Metal Postcard
11. Suburban Relapse
12. The Staircase (Mystery)
13. Mirage
14. Nicotine Stain
15. Hong Kong Garden
16. The Staircase (Mystery)

The Players

John McKay (guitar, saxophone), Kenny Morris (drums, percussion), Steve Severin (bass guitar), Siouxsie Sioux (voice). Produced by Steve Lillywhite and Siouxsie and the Banshees; mixed by Steve Lillywhite.

The Pictures

Photos by Paul Wakefield. Concept by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on November 13, 1978 in the UK (Polydor, POLD/POLDC 5009), the US (Polydor, PD-1-6207), Japan (Polydor, MPF 1210) and New Zealand (Polydor, 2383 523) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #12 on the UK charts. Also released on elpee in 1979 in Australia (Interfusion, L36975) with lyrics innersleeve.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on September 5, 1991 in Japan (Polydor, POCP-2062).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in the US (Geffen, GEFD 24046).
  3. Re-released on Deluxe Edition 2CD in 2005 in Europe (Polydor) with bonus disc.
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2007 in the UK (Universal, 984351-1).
  5. Re-released on picture disc elpee in 2016 in Europe (Polydor, 479 249-6).
  6. Re-released on 180g vinyl and limited edition blue vinyl elpee in 2018 (Polydor, SATBLP01/B) in original UK version.

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