SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES The Scream (Geffen)
Straddling both punk and post-punk Siouxsie was party to the Bill Grundy incident, after all The Banshees debut album resonates with and predates the future shock of Public Image Ltd. and Joy Division, filtering Beefheartian dischord through bleak, wintry discontent. Had any chart-grazing female vocalist before Siouxsie (who wasnt Yoko Ono!) displayed such contempt for technical accuracy? Janis Joplin and Patti Smith sound like choirgirls against her paintstripping whoop. Even the clean, detached but disturbing sleeve design has few, if any, precedents.
Opening fragment Pure is the kind of dark, foreboding ambience it would take The Cure two albums to nail, and the robotic tug of Jigsaw Feelings bass intro would be all over Unknown Pleasures. Overground is a madrigal for a metal age, Carcass a cheery pop stomp about cannibalism, complete with glam rock handclaps and snorting pigs. Helter Skelter turns The Beatles most punk moment inside out, leaving four minutes of twitching, convulsing entrails and profanity. Both Mirage and Metal Postcard (Mittageisen) are anaesthetised by television, slaves to the image, territory that Gang Of Four would later explore more rigorously. Jittery and wound-up, the message if not the music of Suburban Relapse suggests early Wire (of course, if it were an early Wire song it would be attacked at a breakneck pace and dispatched in a third of the time). Pushing a prog-like seven minutes, Switch is a highly stylised if opaque attack on the pharmaceutical industry (their Rowche Rumble, if you like), sporting what has to be the least sensual saxophone sound in rock.
With so much daring innovation demonstrated, I wish I could say I enjoyed The Scream: this is actually my second attempt at it, having bought and disposed of a copy of the album 15 years ago. Unfortunately, it remains too chilly and formal for me to appreciate fully and this from somebody who has no difficulty with just about every band referenced above.