Welcome to our new monthly feature: Music to Die For! It may not surprise you that we are huge music fans. In an effort to expand our musical horizons, we thought it would be fun to pick a random record from Robert Dimery’s book, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, listen to it, and share our thoughts. We try to pick records we're not overly familiar with while preferring those we’ve never heard. We listen to each record for a week without discussing it and then we get together and record our thoughts.
Our second monthly selection is the fourth studio album from Siouxsie and the Banshees, titled Juju. It was released in 1981 with two radio singles: "Spellbound," and "Arabian Knights." Dive on in below for what happened after our week with Juju.
What did you know about this album before you gave it a whirl?
Annie: How honest are we being?
Annie: Okay. Well, I've seen this band name tons of times from shuffling through racks of records, but I knew nothing about the band. Until this first listen, I pronounced the band "Sushi" and the Banshees, and would have bet a week's salary that they were a mid-2000s indie rock band.
Annie: What did you know, all-wise one?
Fred: Nothing at all. I'm familiar with the band just by name and from seeing images of them in magazines, but I can't recall ever hearing any of their music.
How did you feel after the first few songs?
Annie: Given my initial preconceptions, not only was I outright surprised, I was very pleasantly surprised.
Fred: I agree! I was surprised by the sound and the aggressiveness of the music. I was expecting a more new wave sound and less punk. The surprise was pleasant!
Annie: Within the first minute or two, I thought we were in for a Pat Benatar-esque record. How quickly corrected I was... the driving rhythms, the vocal pronunciations, and those drums! I love the drums on this album. I think lead vocalist Siouxsie Sioux eventually married the drummer, Budgie. I mean, how could you not? Have you heard the drums?
Fred: I take it you liked the drums.
What was your overall impression of the whole record?
Fred: I like it more than I expected! You can tell just from a few listens that this band had a huge influence on both punk and goth music. It almost seems like part of the blueprint for goth.
Annie: It's one of those albums that's both an antecedent and a predecessor. As an antecedent, I hear Grace Slick in the tribal vocal calls, especially in Voodoo Dolly. As a predecessor, it's Sleater-Kinney for me all the way.
What was your favorite song or songs on the album?
Fred: I really dig the opening track, Spellbound. What a great start to the record! It's driving and aggressive, but not in a metal way. The rhythmic, almost tribal drumming is a standout on this album. I really dig the song Monitor as well.
Annie: Funny, but I didn't love Spellbound so much. It felt like a radio hit, and a little untrue to the rest of the album for me. I was more a fan of Arabian Knights, Monitor, Halloween, and weirdly, Voodoo Dolly. I say weirdly, because it's definitely the most out-there song on the album, and I think it's fun to end an album off the rails. The Velvet Underground and Nico did the same thing.
Does the album still hold up today?
Fred: Aside from some questionable production choices that make some parts sound a bit dated, I would say yes.
Annie: Yes and no. Yes, because I think it holds an important place in music history. It sits on the cusp of rock and punk, and honestly, I can't think of many female goth-punk lead rockers that preceded Siouxsie Sioux. No, because the vocal reverb is so characteristic of the time period that it almost immediately puts it in 1981. And yet, that's kind of the beauty of now. Music today is capitalizing on all of these past relics--these "questionable production choices" as you called them, Fred.
What do you think about the album art?
Annie: It's uninspired.
Fred: The art is probably the weakest link for me. Some albums have art that fully represents what's inside. This cover is kind of a bland mess to my eyes!
Annie: If you hadn't asked me this question, I don't even think I would have zoomed in to see what the actual art was. I'm not sure I see the connection to the album.
Will you return to the album after this blog post?
Fred: I will for sure. I've listened to it about 5-10 times this week and I still don't feel like I've dug all the way into it.
Annie: Yes, for sure. Punk/goth female power lead? What's not to love?
Have you listened to this album? if so, drop us a comment and let us know what you think!