The problem with listening to much of band’s catalogue before listening to their early records is that those early records inevitably sound primitive or immature (or both) in comparison. And that was very much my first impression of this record when I listened to it, as if I was listening to the Banshees before they truly were the Banshees. That is, of course, entirely unfair, and entirely a perception I could only have having listened to this later, not being alive when it came out. But it’s still hard to shake it.
Everything about this record feels more primitive and immature and less distinct than their later albums. The sound is punkier but it also lacks many of the touches that make later Banshees records sound only like the Banshees. (I mean, outside of Siouxsie’s voice which, by itself, makes this band distinct from the vast majority of post punk bands.) That’s not to say they don’t sound at least somewhat distinct from other post punk bands – especially at this early stage, there wasn’t really a definitive sound – but it’s just not as distinct as it would later get.
But there’s also an immaturity here that vanishes later, best expressed by “The Lord’s Prayer”, a self-indulgent performance art piece which takes up most of the second side. It’s basically Patti Smith and it’s hard not to feel as though Smith’s own attempts at combining pre-existing texts with more contemporary music are far, far more effective (not to mention less boring) than this. Moreover, does it really sound anything at all like the rest of the record?
I like the rest of the record; it has an edge that their later albums sometimes lack and, if I can put those records aside, I can see how this would have been a pretty captivating listen in 1979, at a time when this style of music was just emerging and likely felt so full of possibility.
With the exception of the final track, this feels like one of the seminal early post punk records, suggesting a course different from that of Wire or PiL or Joy Division. But, for me, the last track knocks it down a peg or two.