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Making Reviews for Nigel #6

Diego Basaldu | Posted on May 10, 2019

The front cover of Juju

Design: Rob O’Connor & Photography: Joe LyonsFront sleeve of Juju

Juju

*Artist: Siouxsie & The Banshees *Released: June 6, 1981 *Genre: Post-punk

*Top 3 songs: Arabian Knights (#3), Sin In My Heart (#2), Into the Light (#1)

Extra Fact: The cover is an African statue from London’s Horniman Museum

Personal ranking: 10/10

Unbiased ranking: 9/10

Juju

Tracks (Name [length])

  1. Spellbound [3:20]

  2. Into the Light [4:15]

  3. Arabian Knights [3:05]

  4. Halloween [3:41]

  5. Monitor [5:33]

  6. Night Shift [6:06]

  7. Sin In My Heart [3:37]

  8. Head Cut [4:22]

  9. Voodoo Dolly [7:04]

Banshees: Steven Severin, Budgie & John McGeoch

We will now be “following the footsteps of a rag doll dance” to become bewitched by the sounds of Juju. This album is widely seen as Siouxsie & The Banshees’ most essential and best album (I agree). It’s a masterpiece for showcasing the creative force that post-punk could offer both in lyrics and sound. The album invokes a gothic atmosphere with riffs and beats to keep you entranced within the album. Just because this album revolves around gothic elements, doesn’t mean it’s a gothic album (like the genre with all those stereotypical “everything must be black like my soul” people). Although this album wouldn’t be the same without the gothic elements flowing through the veins of Juju.

The percussion work on this album is thanks to Budgie. The drums are emphasized highly on this album, alongside John McGeoch’s guitar riffs. “Spellbound” showcases what both maestros could offer to both this album and the band. “Spellbound” is appropriately the first track. It serves to give a preview of Budgie’s drumming and McGeoch’s guitar playing. The 12” mix of the song rightfully gives Budgie and McGeoch a “solo” to cement their input into the song. Steven Severin is in the background making sure the spell is cast perfectly. Your feet are possessed to keep up with the drums, and your mind is lost inside the guitar’s riff. The fusion between the two is within Siouxsie’s voice commanding overall instruments. Her voice is the final piece to your complete entrancement.

We become “transfixed” to her voice, and she becomes our “Voodoo Dolly.” The song starts with an eerie guitar sound that revolves around the bass. As the song progresses, the guitar overpowers the bass ([1:03] {time marker}), until the drums kick in ([1:38]) to support Siouxsie’s rising vocals. She either whispers or screams to warn us about the growing danger we face with the “little dolly.” We can hear “the beat is coming nearer.” The terrifying beat builds up in momentum and the best part of the song ensues ([3:45 – 6:37]). “Listen, listen, Listen, LISten, LISTEN!” The intensity built up is released in an epic rising climax. McGeoch’s loud, sporadic guitar, Budgie’s hypnotic beat, Siouxsie’s bloody, echoing pleas, and Severin’s bass, hidden in the background, keeping the flow of the intensity until the climax. The end is one last warning from Siouxsie’s before the guitar’s eerie sound revolves around once more. It’s best to hear this at the highest volume possible.

Correction: It’s best to hear this ENTIRE ALBUM on the highest volume possible. “Halloween” is an epic and intense barrage of “sweet.” scratchy guitar and a “bitter,” brooding bass. The beginning is a warning of what you can expect to rise from “Halloween.” The bombardment of the guitar is carried over into “Monitor.” Leading the song into a harsh concoction of high (guitar, vocals, and drums) and low (bass and synth effect). There are two points where there is “a calm before the storm” ([2:18] & [3:44]), but the storm returns with profound strength and “authority” ([2:31] & [4:08]). While on “Head Cut.” there is no sense of authority. The song is an appropriate mess of bloody vocals, a grimy bass riff, scattered guitar chords, and flailing drums. The arrangements perfectly portray a room of bloody, headless corpses occupying “the flat.” My favorite part is when she randomly howls ([2:54]) towards the end of the gory sounding “Head Cut.”

“Night Shift” and “Sin In My Heart” start off in a calm manner (for a Siouxsie & The Banshees song), but grow in their respective levels of intensity with “outside elements.” “Night Shift” opens with the bass and quickly allows the other instruments to join in the taboo nightlife. The pace picks up a little ([0:56]) until reaching its final and desired intensity level ([1:18]). You could view this as a twisted, predatory ballad: steady and delicate, but it also has an irregular and heavy atmosphere surrounding the song. The “outside element” used is a squeaky, scratchy door handle that can be heard through bits of the song, except for its crucial role in preparing for the final of the song ([4:14]). “Sin In My Heart” is a shining, essential gem on this album. It’s straight to the point in its lyrical and musical composition. The start is once more calm in manner but it’s quick to pick up the pace. The bass and the drums loudly chug through the song alongside McGeoch’s howling guitar and Siouxsie’s simple guitar chords and commanding voice. There’s a sound of breaking glass that appears twice in the song ([0:31] & [3:27]) to keep the inclusion of “outside elements.” The best parts are when the bass begins the chugging flow of the song ([0:47]), and this hypnotic guitar riff that appears at various volume levels throughout the song (best instance at [2:09]).

“Arabian Knights” is what I see as the oddball of the tracks on Juju. It’s not that the song is bad (it’s clever in its use of Budgie’s percussion work and McGeoch’s signature chilling guitar sound), but that the song could have been left as a stand-alone single. The critical lyrical content is what I believe led to the inclusion of “Arabian Knights” on the album. There are too many elements to focus on at once. “Arabian Knights” must be listened to more than once to appreciate each input into the song. Severin’s grinding, melodic bass. Budgie’s primitive drum beat. McGeoch’s seductive, chilling guitar. Siouxsie’s ominous attitude to the ideals of “Arabian Knights.” Those ideals will soon be discussed, but there’s one last song on the album. It’s not the best track on the album, but it’s my favorite Siouxsie & The Banshees’ song.

“Into the Light” is a murky sounding track. The guitar shinning above all other instruments to attract you “into the light.” The bass providing a supportive role in the guitar’s reflection of mystery surrounding “the light.” Budgie’s drumming pollutes the guitar from fully reaching its luminous potential (the drumming also influenced Radiohead’s “There There”). All those elements are kept in harmony through Siouxsie’s radiant vocal performance. Something about her voice declaring the lyric “into the light” sends a chilling wind of passion through you. The finale is what seals the deal for me ([2:58 – 4:09]). Her voice reaches its full enchanting potential. It captures you and brings you one step closer “into the light” of Siouxsie’s lustrous, dominating voice.

What about Juju feeds into the gothic imagery constantly associated with Siouxsie & The Banshees? Gothic (in the context I’m using for this review) will be described as “alluding to strange or freighting ideas or events.” Now with the established definition of gothic, let’s dive into the first song. “Spellbound” is obviously about being bewitched by a spell. But by what kind of spell? A spell everyone has been bewitched by at least once before- love. Love is being presented as an enchantment we “have no choice” in resisting. We will blindly follow that love to any lengths (“Following the footsteps/Of a rag doll dance”), no matter who gets in our way (“When your elders forget/To say their prayers/Take them by the legs/And throw them down the stairs”). Would someone truly go to such lengths for love? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It truly is an interesting perspective to view love in such an occultic perspective.

“Into the Light” gives another obvious explanation to the meaning of the song. The Afterlife. The song gives a reminder of “our time” of being “blinding by the sight” of that “light” we’ve heard so much about in comedic situations, but there’s nothing comedic about our destined attraction to “the light.” Once we enter “the light,” we will see our next path in life (“A new horizon/Bleached into white/Kept out of sight”). We won’t know how we will see “the light.” The different ideas that exist about the afterlife will be tested. Is our own belief of the afterlife “right,” or is it some other way we rejected to believe? We will never know until that fateful moment comes. We will be “standing in the light.”

“Arabian Knights” isn’t the first time Siouxsie & The Banshees have criticized a religion (I mean no offense in writing about this song, as well as the other songs related to this religious topic and ideas presented). They’ve mocked Christian beliefs by butchering The Lord’s Prayer into a 14-minute-long jam session (“The Lords Prayer”). They’ve criticized the Jews living in Israel for being hypocrites in their treatment of the Palestinians (“Israel”). Now they criticize the Middle East and the treatment of Muslim women. The jab at the Middle East is related to their “monstrous oil tanker[s]” that “bleed” to provide the region with countless attractions becoming a “tourist oasis.” The real critique is in the following lyrics. “Veiled behind screens/Kept as your baby machine/Whilst you conquer more orifices/Of boys, goats and things/Ripped out sheep’s’ eyes — no forks or knives.” What about this critique is gothic? The freighting idea that such events do occur to Muslim women (of course this doesn’t mean every Muslim woman). The restriction of their rights to go out into the world to live a life they wish, while also being faithful to their religious beliefs. Instead, they are seen only as “baby machines” to follow the husband’s wishes, despite the husband’s own hypocritical faults. The lyrics serve to grab your attention that such events are a reality and should be frowned upon.

“Halloween” depicts the thoughts of a killer while murdering a child. The killer stares at the child’s “sadness” with “scorpion eyes” inside the “nursery.” My favorite lines in the song are “The bitter and the sweet” and “trick-or-treat.” The killer enjoying the murder of the child (“sweet”), but sad the killing has to end (“bitter”). While all of this is happening, the killer mockingly says “trick-or-treat.” The killer receives the treat, while the child gets the trick. This is gruesome, but we have grown used to such details. We are exposed to such violence on television or in movies all on screen. “Monitor” addresses this issue of being desensitized to violence and “misery” for the “entertainment… we crave for inside.” We now view the “pain” as a “passing of time” all while we “sit back and enjoy” despite the hidden reality to the events we watch to sustain ourselves with “entertainment.”

“Night Shift” is the most gothic out of all the tracks. Inspired by the Yorkshire Ripper (a man who murdered 13 women), “Night Shift” is about a serial killer and rapist hunting down prostitutes “at night time.” Extreme imagery of rape and murder is scattered throughout this song. “I’m inside many brides,” “F#*k the mothers, kill the others/F*#k the others, kill the mothers,” “With a nice dissection,” and “A new vocation in life/My love with a knife” are examples of the explicit imagery. The most “powerful” lyrics (“powerful” as in the best to bring out the gothic element in this song) are calmly screamed with terror. “I’ll put it out of my mind because/I’m out of my mind with you/In heaven and hell with you.” The rapist isn’t fully in control of his mental capacity due to his obsession with “night shift sisters.” He is glad he is violating these women (“heaven”), but his “fun” must end with their life (“hell”). Extreme parallels can be seen between “Halloween” and “Night Shift.”

“Sin In My Heart” is the complete opposite of “Night Shift.” Instead of a man in control, it is the woman who is the dominant force. The man is now submissive to the woman’s own sexual demands. (“when you grovel at my feet” and “when you’re lying like a tart”). There’s nothing too complex with this song’s gothic element. The same can be said about “Head Cut.” A killer’s fetish with heads, especially those severed from their torso. The killer scouts out potential heads with “huge smiling” faces. The killer creates “plaster cast[s]” of the severed heads or stuffs the heads “with bread” and puts lipstick on them. The killer will also either preserve the heads “on ice,” leaves the heads “under the bed,” or cooks the heads.

“Voodoo Dolly” serves as the epic, gothic conclusion to Juju. There can be two interpretations of what “Voodoo Dolly” wants to convey. The first is that the song is about an “emotional vampire.” Our little “voodoo dolly” who makes a fool out of us. The dolly only stays with us until satisfied and moves on to the next victim. We will be drained from the toxic relationship we allowed to continue. We can only blame ourselves for being taken advantage of for the gain of the “voodoo dolly.” The second interpretation is that “Voodoo Dolly” represents our temptation and eventual submission to our vices. The “little drum” in our ear is the vice trying to win the battle over our conscience. The louder the drum beat, the closer we are to fully submitting to our vices. We must trust our conscience to make the correct decision. We must trust in ourselves to avoid the “fear” that lingers in the back of our minds. We must avoid “looking very silly” and not be “paralyzed” by the fear. The fear that empowers our vices to grow. Grow in the beat of the “little drum” in our ear “transfixing” us to give in and “listen to the fear.” There are times we gave in to the “fear,” and because we did there were consequences that affected our relationships with others. Despite knowing that, we still listen. We still listen to our fear.

Listen… listen… listen to the warnings to avoid your own submission. Your submission into the gothic elements that surround your life. You may not call those “fears” and vices gothic, but you recognize their power over you. So, the next time you encounter your respective “voodoo dolly,” remember to stay strong and find support. Unless you wish to give in and be thrown into the gothic elements of Juju.

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