There are a few albums that, when first heard, can completely change the way you look, the things that you say and your taste levels forevermore. For swathes of a generation in 1981, that album was Siouxsie and The Banshees masterpiece Juju, the group’s fourth record and arguably their best.
Siouxsie and The Banshees weren’t exactly a band that rose from the embers of punk, as many would like to believe, more a group forged by the roaring fires of the genre’s first incendiary moments. Taking the stage with a rag-tag band that included Steve Severin on bass and Sid Vicious on drums, the first iteration of Siouxsie Sioux’s band The Banshees took the stage at the first-ever punk festival at The 100 Club in 1976. Ever since that show, a performance that largely consisted of heavy notes and the Lord’s Prayer being yelled at a searingly high volume, the band has been the foreword in avant-garde rock.
A part of the Bromley Contingent, a group of punks who had a rather large hand in the formation of the movement, Siouxsie was always destined to be a star. As well as showing up as part of the Sex Pistols entourage for their iconic four-letter-laden appearance on Bill Grundy’s Today show, Siouxsie has always found ways to cut herself apart from the rest. She has, both with and without her band, been a consistent and continual pursuer of artistic freedom and spreading her message. By 1981, the band were determined to change their style and begin a new chapter.
Having become one of the pivotal figures in punk rock during the late seventies, by the early part of the next decade, Siouxsie and her band were beginning to find their own feet and creating a brand new sound of their own. Flecked with the burning intensity of punk, the songs largely produced a brooding menace that few acts had pulled off with authenticity, Juju would become a lasting statement of the group’s powerhouse new sound.
In 1981, they released the brilliant record, signifying a big change not only in The Banshees’ sound but also in Britain’s culture entirely. The brazen and bratty side of punk had resided, and now there was something more artistic awaiting the group. With Steve Severin’s basslines and Siouxsie’s theatrical vocals, the move into something new was always likely to be a touch darker, and they didn’t disappoint, making an album that pulsated with malicious intent and, arguably, started the genre/style of goth.
There are hits all over the LP too. ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Arabian Knights’ are obvious mammoths while a similarly dark territory is explored on ‘Voodoo Dolly’ and ‘Night Shift’, as two fine pieces of goth-pop gone right. While the album is seen by many as a stepping stone towards the group’s neo-psyche-pop stardom, the LP is a clear cultural touchpoint for any fledgeling goth or post-punk adorer.
With Juju, Siouxsie and The Banshees made that most uncommon but spectacular of things — transcended music. Yes, the album is rich in moments of pure post-punk revelry, and, certainly, it has enough eyeliner darkness to cast it as the archetypal goth soundtrack. Still, its power goes way beyond the sonic structures it created on the airwaves. It provided and foundation for new artist and a safe sanctuary for its audience.
The seventies had been so deeply concerned with stardom and the pursuit of solo success that it left thousands of kids without a place in the world. The outsiders had truly been left out in the cold during the early part of the eighties, but it was this album that offered them a burning fire to warm themselves with. Juju is likely to be remembered for the music, and rightly so, but the solace it provided many of its listeners should never be forgotten.