Friday, April 29, 2011

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Join Hands

Join Hands (1979) **

Bleeding hell this one bloody awful album.  Curiously and bafflingly enough, the sound is exactly the same and the songcraft isn't drastically different from the debut, but somehow this album feels like a weak parody of The Scream.  Let's get the worst out of the way first:  the album concludes with 14 unendurable minutes of "The Lord's Prayer," which literally sounds like a no-talent Sid Vicious attempting a Patti Smith poetic epic (which - guess what! - it literally was, as Sid Vicious did play drums on the band's live debut, which did include this song).  With stereotypically "punk" lack of competent musicianship, dynamics, or even a few token chord or tempo changes over the course of 14 minutes, it never threatens to get hypnotic or interesting in the least, but just drags on and on and on and on and on and on as a festering pile of gormless, putrefacting noise.   I'm sure there are worse attempts by some teenage punk bands to recreate their own "Sister Ray," out there, but hey, they didn't commit them to vinyl on major label records.  Preceding that disgrace is the second-worst track (at least they had the brains to save the two worst for last, eh?) "Mother/Oh Mein Pa Pa," in which Siouxsie sings out of tune alongside to a children's musical box.  Yes, it's as bad as it sounds.  The swirling playground chime melody and guitar rings of "Playground Twist," are slightly hypnotic, and that's as close to a good track as this album gets.  Squinting my ears I can detect some decent, even compelling, musical moments in "The Icon," and "Placebo Effect," but isolated moments are all they amount to - a regally marching goth riff here and there doesn't add up to a good song in and of itself.  This album gives the term sophomore slump an even greater emphasis than usual - has ever before a band so swiftly and decisively exhausted a style that worked so brilliantly on their debut?

The reissue appends two bonus tracks.  "Love in a Void," was an A-side that stomps gloomily but glammishly along as their most convincing punk anthem, and is several jillion times superior to anything on the album proper; but not enough to warrant purchase or anything, especially considering that it's easily available on any number of compilations.  The original single should be a collector's item, though, since Siouxsie quickly politically corrected the lyric, "Too many Jews for my liking!" to lines more palatable, and every subsequent edition contains the self-censored version.  So hunt down the Nazi-armband era Sioxsie single if you can, it should net you some bucks and hip cred (well, at least with the white power punk crowd).  The other bonus track, "Infantry," defines the term, "total waste," amazingly being of even lower quality than anything on the album proper, an instrumental consisting of nothing more than a reverbed guitar echoing the same notes over and over to a perfunctory rhythm track.

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