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Punk of the Month: Siouxsie Sioux

October 11, 2011

Girl Germs might be an all-female show, but we have plenty of supportive gentleman friends – and even some honorary ladies – who number among our compatriots (see: DJ Phizzy, King Cole and Marinos of On the Corner; Evan and co. over at Fancy Pants Gangsters; and Chris and Qualler of Blogulator Radio, among others). You might remember our friend Nate from fellow Fancy Pants Gangsters show (and former fellow Radio K program) Out of Step. Nate is our go-to expert on all things punk and he’s kindly agreed to write a monthly feature for you all called Punk of the Month! Watch the blog every month for a profile of a female artist who has broken ground on the punk scene. 

After last month’s brief dalliance with the present, we return once again to Punk of the Month’s bread and butter: the late ‘70s.  Ladies and gents, please welcome Siouxsie Sioux!

Born Susan Janet Ballion in London, she adopted her professional handle once the punk movement had begun to take hold.  Sioux was initially associated with the so-called Bromley Contingent, a group of young Sex Pistols enthusiasts that also included Billy Idol.

Known for her spiky black mane, feline-inspired eye makeup and swastika-enhanced bondage gear, Sioux hastily assembled a band of her own featuring Sid Vicious and fellow Bromley Contingent conspirator Steve Severin.  After their makeshift performance at the 100 Club Punk Festival, Sioux assembled a more permanent group with Severin, and Siouxsie and the Banshees were born.

Harnessing punk’s energy and fusing it with abrasive art-rock noise, the Banshees created a brittle, bracing aural assault.   Driving it all was Sioux and her icy, piercing howl.   Quite popular in the London club circuit, the group found itself at the vanguard of the post-punk movement.

Their debut single, the Far East-flavored “Hong Kong Garden,” was released in 1978 and reached the UK Top Ten before long.  Their first LP, the dissonant and rampaging The Scream, dropped later that year.  A second album, Join Hands, followed in 1979.

During the recording of the 1980’s Kaleidoscope LP, Sioux and her drummer/future husband Budgie decided to form an offshoot group, the Creatures.  Often existing in tandem with the Banshees, this project band issued an EP and several LPs, often recording in such exotic locales as Hawaii, Spain, and Japan.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, the Banshees broadened their sonic profile as they continued their ascent into the charts, incorporating hip-hop-inspired elements and South Asian instrumentation.  The group toured on Lollapalooza’s inaugural run, gaining a greater American fan base in the process.  Despite their creative and commercial momentum, the Banshees opted to split in 1996, in response to the Sex Pistols’ monetarily motivated reunion tour.

Sioux’s post-Banshees career was marked by collaborations with artists like Morrissey and former Velvet Underground guitarist John Cale.  Touring on the strength of her past catalog, she finally yielded her solo debut album, 2007’s Manta Ray.

To consider Siouxsie Sioux an influential and original figure would be something of an understatement.  Critic Jon Savage once gushed that she was “unlike any female singer before or since, commanding yet aloof, entirely modern.”

Who are we to argue?

–Nate Rastetter

Nate is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the co-host of the Out of Step podcast. He has volunteered at Extreme Noise Records in Minneapolis since June 2000 and presently serves on its Board of Directors.  He seriously, fanatically loves record shopping.  Music is his mistress and vinyl is his vice.  He is also a moderately talented bass player.

 

 

 

 

 

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