Siouxsie and the Banshees emerged from England’s burgeoning punk scene in 1976 after Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin began associating with the Sex Pistols. Immersing themselves in this new, exciting musical territory, Sioux and Severin took a gamble by asking to fill in for a band at the 100 Club Punk Festival, despite having no material to play.
After recruiting Marco Pirroni and Sid Vicious, the pair played their first gig, which turned out to be more successful than anticipated. Buoyed by the first taste of performing live, Sioux and Severin decided to continue with the band, finding new members to round out their line-up. By 1977, the group had recorded a John Peel session, introducing them to impressed critics across the country. Their first single, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, was released the following year, making way for their debut album, The Scream.
The band drew comparisons to fellow punk artists, ’60s proto-punk and avant-garde acts, and krautrock outfits, quickly separating them from their contemporaries. Instead, the band were classified as early post-punk pioneers, and their frequent utilisation of a darker sound also led them to be considered cornerstones of gothic rock.
The Scream, released in 1978, found widespread acclaim, noted for its unique motorik rhythms, strong bass and Sioux’s distinctive sharp voice. The album included their take on The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’, putting an ominous, abrasive spin on the classic track. With every song, the band create an unnerving atmosphere, whether Sioux is singing about crazed butchers or a Psycho-inspired riff is puncturing the soundscape. It’s a dark and brooding record, but it’s also a lot of fun, rife with pummeling riffs and danceable drum beats.
Thematically, the album was concerned with the alienation of suburbia and society, with the band citing movies such as The Swimmer and writers like J.G Ballard as significant sources of inspiration. Severin explained: “All [Ballard’s] near-future tales were set in this bizarre suburban wasteland. Suburbia is a place where you can imagine any kind of possibility, because there’s space, not urban clutter.”
It’s no wonder the album was a major reference point for Joy Division, who crafted their dark post-punk sound in the late-1970s, releasing their seminal debut album, Unknown Pleasures, the year after The Scream. Talking to Q, Joy Division’s bassist Peter Hook explained: “Siouxsie And The Banshees were one of our big influences. The Banshees first LP was one of my favourite ever records, the way the guitarist and the drummer played was a really unusual way of playing and this album showcases a landmark performance.”
A few years later, drummer Stephen Morris wrote in his book, Record Play Pause: “The bass-led rhythm, the way first drummer Kenny Morris played mostly toms. The Banshees had that foreboding sound, sketching out the future from the dark of the past. Hearing the sessions they’d done on John Peel’s show and reading gigs write-ups, they sounded interesting.”
It’s easy to imagine Joy Division listening to songs such as ‘Nicotine Stain’ and ‘Carcass’ and finding plenty of inspiration, helping to shape the sound that would define them, alongside the Banshees, as one of the most influential post-punk bands ever.