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fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 199 - 11/28/12

From head to heart
Siouxie's A Kiss In The Dreamhouse

Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth the Lunar archival shuttle takes us 30 years back in time. To the top-of-the-goth-pop post-punk days. With generous amounts of eyeliner and lipstick, troll-like hairdos, and magic tricks from the where dreams are about to turn nightmares.

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Siouxsie And The Banshees
A Kiss In The Dreamhouse
Polydor

Here is a proof that some of us are getting older. I remember vividly when this album was released. Earlier this month it was 30 years ago...

There are four true album delights among Siouxsie Sioux and her company's production line. The debut The Scream was a veritable fist that proved once and for all that the band wasn't a short lived novelty. The second, Join Hands, was a disappointment, mostly due to flabby production and some not-up-to-par songs, I think. But the following three Kaleidoscope, Ju-ju and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse were a tour de force. Great songs, arrangements, production, simple yet melodic bass lines and not least the wizardry of John McGeogh's guitar playing.

Whereas the band's first four albums stand firm on a post punk foundation, A Kiss In The Dreamhouse also leans towards more experimental attempts, and psychedelia. It's not as dark as previous albums, more colourful, like the cover. It was the first album the band members produced on their own and the first where they used strings. Also, of course, it has several of the familiar Banshee elements. The opening "Cascade" follows the tradition of many of the band's previous successful singles, but it never reached that format. Starting with a quite quiet, simple, catchy bass riff, then the drums and guitar join in in a playful way. Full power is not turned on until the end of the first verse. Another great song with energy-rushing catchy chorus it is. The new element on this particular song is a discreet harpsichord-sounding keyboard towards the end. Instead "Melt!" and "Slowdive" were chosen as the singles off the album. They were both bold choices. The former is a ballad, sort of, with a mandolin (or mandolin-sounding guitar) as a conspicuous element. The verses are a bit too monotonous, I think, to really hit it off, but it's a nice little heartbreaker. A strange message from the former ice queen vocalist, though. "Slowdive" is far from the guitar dominated band-name-inspiring shoegazer number one might expect. Instead it's hard hitting with snappy violin riffs as the driving force. Despite that, to me it stomps too much up and down on the same spot and lacks some dynamics. "Carnival" includes even more strings, played more conventionally here. The closest the band ever got to Electric Light Orchestra, but with a guitar sound similar to The Cure. The table was set for Robert Smith, Cure's guitarist etc., that joined the Banshee fold shortly after the release of the album.

"Obsession", on the other hand, has a very sharp, simple and effective guitar that drives the song forward despite it being quite restrained. Some inventive violins in between, too. Excellent! "She's A Carnival" and "Painted Bird" are the closest to old time punky Siouxsie with energetic rhythms, guitar and vocals. But the band can't resist avoiding the obvious formula and includes a hilarious fairground organ at the end of the former. And the latter has a fascinating combination of forwards and backwards vocals and percussion in the middle part. Still the most inventive songs are yet to come. "Circle" is dominated by a short, keen loop (probably played backwards), drums and Siouxsie's voice. Quite hypnotizing. "Cocoon" is a cool lounge-jazz-number with brushes, double bass, I think, and all, and in addition strange echoed piano and ditto backing vocals. I guess the band never got further away from their punked-out "The Lord's Prayer" live debut (when Sid Vicious was involved, on drums) than here. And let's not forget "Green Fingers" either, where John McGeoch plays the recorder...

The lyrics? Of course as vital a part as the music. Let's leave it to Paul Morley to describe, taken from his essay, so to speak, in the booklet of the remastered version of the album from 2008:
'... They weren't by any means your average pop group singing songs of safety. Their songs pulled silver threads from the coarse texture of daily life, poured dazzling light on the depraved actions of perverts and executioners, feared for our collective sanity, confronted the mystery of existence, created metaphysical landscapes that sparkled with a thousand lights, had inklings of a superhuman order, wrote about childhood with lyric ferocity.'

A Kiss In The Dreamhouse was Siouxie And The Banshees most inventive and exiting album. Period!

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