SIOUXSIE and the BANSHEES – ” Juju ” Released June 1981 40 years ago

Posted: June 24, 2021 in MUSIC

Siouxsie and the Banshees released their fourth studio album, Juju, featuring “Spellbound,” on this day in 1981. Having become one of the pivotal figures in punk rock during the late seventies, by the early part of the next decade, Siouxsie and her band were beginning to find their own feet and creating a brand new sound of their own. There are hits all over the LP too. ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Arabian Knights’ are obvious bangers while a similarly dark territory is explored on ‘Voodoo Dolly’ and ‘Night Shift’, as two fine pieces of goth-pop gone right. While the album was just a stepping stone for the band towards their neo-psyche-pop stardom, the LP is a clear cultural touchpoint for any fledgeling goth.

In 1981 they released the brilliant “Juju”, and it signified a big change, not only in The Banshees’ sound but also in Britain’s culture entirely. The brazen and bratty side of punk had resided, and now there was something more artistic awaiting the group. With Steve Severin’s basslines and Siouxsie’s theatrical vocals, the move into something new was always likely to be a touch darker.

One of the band’s masterworks, “Juju” sees Siouxsie and the Banshees operating in a squalid wall of sound dominated by tribal drums, swirling and piercing guitars, and Siouxsie Sioux’s fractured art-attack vocals. If not for John McGeoch’s  marvellous high-pitched guitars, here as reminiscent of his own work in Magazine, the album would rank as the band’s most gothic release. Siouxsie and company took things to an entirely new level of darkness on “Juju”, with the singer taking delight in sinister wordplay on the disturbing “Head Cut,” creeping out listeners in the somewhat tongue-in-cheek “Halloween,” and inspiring her bandmates to push their rhythmic witches brew to poisonous levels of toxicity. 

Album opener “Spellbound,” one of the band’s classics, ranks among their finest moments and bristles with storming energy. Siouxsie’s mysterious voice emerges from dense guitar picking, Budgie lays into his drums as if calling soldiers to war, and things get more tense from there. “Into the Light” is perhaps the only track where a listener gets a breath of oxygen, as the remainder of the album screams claustrophobia, whether by creepy carnival waterfalls of guitar notes or Siouxsie’s unsettling lyrics. “Arabian Nights” at least offers a gorgeously melodic chorus, but after that the band performs a symphony of bizarre wailings and freaky imagery. As ominous as the cacophony is on its own, close attention to Siouxsie’s nearly subliminal chants paints a scarier picture. A passage such as “I saw you…a huge smiling central face with eyes and lips cut out but smiling and eating lots of other lips” doesn’t exactly brighten one’s day. 

Siouxsie and the Banshees performing “Sin in My Heart” live at Rockpalast in 1981 in Cologne, Germany. “Sin in My Heart” was included on Side Two of Juju, their fourth studio album. It was recorded at Surrey Sound studio with Nigel Gray as co-producer, and released in June 1981 by Polydor. Featuring John McGeoch’s brilliant guitar work, Siouxsie’s rich vocal performances, Steven Severin’s spare bass lines and Budgie’s standout drumming are all evident on this live performance, and what made Juju a post-punk classic.

Steve Severin (guitarist/producer): “Juju was the first time we’d made a “concept”
album that drew on darker elements. It wasn’t pre-planned, but, as we were writing, we saw a definite thread running through the songs, almost a narrative to the album as a whole”.

Her attack-the-world dynamic range on “Voodoo Dolly” predates and out-weirds Bjork’s similar styling years later.  McGeoch and Budgie and bassist Steven Severin deserve just as much credit for crafting an original sound that would inspire a diverse group of future bands.

All the while, producer Nigel Gray maintains the sense that the album is an immediate, edgy performance unfolding right in front of the listener. The upfront intensity of “Juju” probably isn’t matched anywhere else in the catalogue of the band. Thanks to its killer singles, unrelenting force, and invigorating dynamics, 

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