Juju, by Souixsie and the Banshees
Suggested by Peet Denny (First Album)
Souixsie and the Banshees were ground-breaking. According to their Wiki page, they were instrumental influences in a variety of musical genres. They had an impact on post-punk, new wave, synth pop, gothic rock, alternative music, shoegazing and trip-hop, with their tendrils caressing artists such as Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and more.
Let’s pause for a moment and looks at Gothic Rock. If asked to name a goth band, I’m sure most people would get round to Souixsie and the Banshees eventually. Okay, they’re probably more punk, but they have definite leanings towards graveyards and weeping willows and swans and vampires and stuff. But, like The Sisters of Mercy, they sought to distance themselves from any such distinction.
Can they do that? Can a band denounce their audible musical roots by simply saying “nah mate, we’re nothing like Led Zeppelin”…? Even if it’s blindingly apparent? “No, we’re nothing LIKE Guns and Roses, OUR song is called Sweet Child of BRINE.” Or is it controlled by the fanbase? That’s open to abuse too. “Sorry Enya, but the rockers have spoken. They’ve taken a poll, and apparently you’re Death Metal now.”
That’d be the ideal, I think. Acts are categorised not by their sound but by the fans who court them the most. That way, you get Jedward headlining Download, pelted by thousands of plastic pint-pots full of hot piss.
Juju is Souixsie and the Banshee’s fourth album, and a return to a guitar-based sound after a flirtation with a pure electronic one on Kaleidoscope. It’s one of their more Gothic sounding releases, no mater how much they may protest that. But unlike other offerings in the genre, Juju has more drive and force than you’d necessarily expect. It’s quite a menacing noise, with a swirling, rhythmic guitar couples with the signature Souixsie vaudeville ghostly vocal.
Can Souixsie sing? She does sing, that much is certain. I’d be churlish to say that she’s anything short of dynamic, and packed with interest. But technically? It’s not a particularly pleasant sound, but it’s post-punk perfect pitch, and so iconic that who really cares? Her voice is two fingers to the sky, labelled as art with a superior sneer.
There’s a thematic cohesion to Juju that fixes it firmly to the town hall notice board, a flyer proclaiming exactly what it is with no subtext or guile. But dig a little deeper, and the influential seedlings for a number of sounds are here in microcosm. A strong example of this is on my favourite track, Monitor, which has a nascent Industrial Metal vibe, but it’s not the only one. Spellbound, Arabian Nights, Voodoo Dolly, all offer up signs that have shaped the standards of alt rock to this day. And all this is achieved without the sound being any less that pure Souixsie.
Juju is a fine album, sounding as fresh today as it did some forty years ago. I give it 7/10. It’s a fine example of a post-punk sound, but that’s a sound I respect from a distance rather than actively embrace as a friend.