Siouxsie & the Banshees
Downside Up


rikey, a Banshees b-side bonanza and a bountiful bonus bequest in the form of The Thorn EP; all appearing across four digital drink coasters for the very first time. If you were to choose to merely balance beverages upon these lovingly compiled collections however, sensible persons would be forced to administer stern slappings whilst expressing open contempt for you and all your works. That is to say, this set is extremely thorough and audibly marvellous. Should you have chanced upon this page merely to glance at the rating and receive brief quality-assurance you may quietly shuffle along now. Everyone else, please form a disorderly rabble and press onwards through the door marked ‘the rest of this review malarkey’.

The Banshees, then. Arty punks to gothic stigma-dodgers in just three moves. Siouxsie; talismanic, Severin; divine basslines, Budgie; percussion maestro, various guitarists; never dull. A whole bunch of fascinating, flirty, and frequently freaky singles from which to harvest handfuls of additional material. Musings regarding this compilation have, apparently, been floating around since 1986; in which time the total content has practically doubled. Good thing Polydor were around to delay the idea for an ungodly amount of time then, eh? Presumably they can’t get enough of using the term ‘long awaited’ in press releases.

Pleasingly, there’s no remix-padding here (the likes of which slightly blotted the recent Cure b-side set) and precious little unnecessarily filler (I have issues only with a vocal-deprived version of “Obsession” winningly entitled ... “Obsession II”). Instead, it’s a wonderfully eclectic mixture of fingers-down-a-blackboard avant-punk (“Voices (On The Air),” “Eve White/Eve Black”), Creatures-esque tribal drum-worship (“Sunless”), majestic beauty (“Something Blue,” “Shooting Sun,” “Return”), amusing experimentation (“Slap Dash Snap,” “(There’s A) Planet In My Kitchen”), linguistic fun (“Mittageisen,” “Il Est Ne, Le Divin Enfant,” “El Dia De Los Muertos”) and, yes, playfully ‘dark’ tunes (“Something Wicked (This Way Comes),” “Are You Still Dying, Darling?”). Phew, quite some list. Which, naturally, is about as far away from scratching the surface as those crappy, plastic one-use knives are from being effective suicide implements.

‘But wait!’, cries a voice (on the page), ‘there’s more!’ And so there is. A sumptuous parcel of perfect treats for your ear to excitedly consume with a happy little smile. Um, except that would be quite disturbing. Then again, at times so is The Thorn EP (for it is this of which I speak). A quartet of tunes, re-recorded in 1984 with tweaked arrangements and an added string section. This adds a semi-regal air to “Overground,” amidst themes of social alienation and suggestions of an escape from underground, post-apocalyptic mutation hell. No sooner has that faded out, then “Voices (On The Air)” pops up again sounding, if anything, even more intensely crowded and chaotic than before. Which leads us on to even more delightful things. Possibly the strongest one-two punch to appear on any Banshees album; the swaggering medicinal-cynicism of “Placebo Effect”, followed by an epic rendition of “Red Over White”, blood-on-the-snow imagery running rampant before descending into a frenzied howl. Magnificent.

As Sioux herself states in a lively foreword; “Well it’s about bloody time!” I heartily concur. Such a long wait, yet every single second of Polydors pointless filibustering now seems worthwhile. A complete collection of splendid songs, gorgeously packaged, and handily remastered. Even if you have but the flightiest of passing fancies in this band, even if the only thing you’ve heard is the first three bars of “Kiss Them For Me,” even if you can’t spell ‘Siouxsie’ properly—this set is utterly essential.

Reviewed by: Peter Parrish

Reviewed on: 2005-01-12

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