Siouxsie Sioux evolved out of Sex Pistols fanaticism to form seminal post-punk, art rock, gothic powerhouse Siouxsie and The Banshees, and their fourth record, Juju, is the point where it all hits home: pounding tribal drums; iconic, steely guitar work; lyrical imagery ranging from the poetic to the violent to the all-out disturbing; and Siouxsie's lovely vocals that always know right when it's time to go nasty and nuts. Juju is the gothic rock must-have if Bauhaus' In the Flat Field is too squealy for you. But if that's the case, I pity you, â??cause that's a great one, too.
As opposed to Kaleidoscope, where everyone had a thousand different jobs, Juju finds the Banshees focusing and allocating each of the four to their own spot, leading to a tight, focused listen. Moreover, instead of just Siouxsie or Steven Severin having songwriting credits, all tracks are credited to the whole group. I'd believe that the two are related.
Juju is very much guitar-led, and guitarist John McGeoch does as much as he can to make it kick ass. His guitar contributions range from nice and jangly in "Spellbound," which Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr applauded and likely imitated, to prominent and deep in "Into the Light," rough and punky in "Monitor," but most prominently psychedelic, metallic and distinctly gothic in "Arabian Knights," "Halloween," "Night Shift" and "Sin in My Heart." It finally leads up to a creepy and downright awesome mix of all in "Head Cut" and "Voodoo Dolly," with the latter being a high wall of chaos.
Bassist Steven Severin provides a solid, guitar-sounding performance throughout. He really comes into his own in "Arabian Knights," providing a memorable bassline that aids the track in becoming my favorite, and arguably the best track on Juju.
Drummer Budgie pounds his way into my list of sheer greatness with tribal drum beats in "Spellbound," "Arabian Knights," "Halloween", "Night Shift" and "Head Cut," if only briefly in some cases, then a full-on tribal attack in "Voodoo Dolly." But even when he's not adding to the voodoo, he still provides a noticeably strong rhythm to "Arabian Knights," "Sin in My Heart" and "Head Cut," once again solidifying "Arabian Knights" as the best track and as a classic.
And of course, there's Siouxsie herself. I know she and The Banshees were more closely related to the Cure and Robert Smith, but the last I heard a singer get so into their work was actually Peter Murphy with Bauhaus. "Spellbound" and "Arabian Knights" wouldn't be the same masterworks without her elegant voice, nor without her tribal convulsions in the latter. Plus, she somehow perfectly conveys the sheer voodoo nastiness of "Head Cut" and the total creepiness of "Voodoo Dolly," and you can't say she isn't having fun when she starts freaking out in the former. Just like with the rest of her Banshees, not one moment of Siouxsie's is a weak performance.
Though I would argue that Bauhaus' Mask is a better introduction to Gothic rock for the unfamiliar, simply for it being one of the most fun Goth records I know, there's still no denying the utter rocking strength of Juju and the perverse enjoyment I get out of it. Check out the full record, or first take a listen to "Arabian Knights," "Spellbound" and "Head Cut." You really can't go wrong.