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In 1980 Siouxsie and the Banshees released their third studio album "Kaleidoscope". This followed hot on the heels of their first two albums, "The Scream" and "Join Hands", which had been released in 1978 and 1979 respectively.
Their debut album had been a resounding success and even today is still held in very high esteem, whilst its successor had been a rather dark, depressing disappointment. At this point there were many critics ready to write the band off so it was with baited breath that "Kaleidoscope" hit the shops.
"Kaleidoscope" contains eleven tracks as below:
1. Happy House
6. Lunar Camel
8. Desert Kisses
9. Red Knight
10. Paradise Place
This album was recorded between the January and March of 1980 and featured a new line up of the band, since two of the former members had dramatically quit during the previous tour.
Joining the founder members Siouxsie (providing vocals, guitar and percussion) and Steve Severin (guitar, electric sitar, synthesiser and bass) were Budgie (bass and drums) and Steve Jones (guitar). In addition to these members they also managed to "borrow" John McGeoch from Magazine. He provided electric and acoustic guitars, saxophone and farfisa.
The album kicks off with "Happy House." This track was released as a single just prior to the release of the album and gave the band a top twenty hit single in the UK. This song is very upbeat with a tune that sticks inside your head. There are some strange high pitched synthesiser sounds and whilst there are still hints of darker, more gloomy moments, this is a much happier, more jolly song than anything that appeared on the previous album "Join Hands." It is almost hard to believe how catchy this tune actually is as Siouxsie sings: "This is the happy house, we're happy here in the happy house, oh it's such fun, we've come to play in the happy house, and waste a day in the happy house, it never rains."
The second track "Tenant" again has the same high pitched synthesiser sounds, but this time there is a sinister feel to this song.
"Trophy" sees Siouxsie and the Banshees slipping slightly towards their darker, gloomier past. Siouxsie's voice is slow and deep and although it is in perfect timing with the music it almost sounds as if it is being played at the wrong speed. This song was a real grower for me and is now one of my favourite songs on this album.
"Hybrid" is the longest track on this album and has a repetitive drumbeat that seems to go on for ages. When the song eventually begins this is a decent song but probably the weakest track here on this album, a testament to just how good the other songs here are.
Next up we have "Clockface" which in direct contrast to its predecessor is the shortest song here. This song contains no lyrics but it is technically speaking not an instrumental either since there are lots of "Oh Oh" noises and "Woo Woo" sounds. These vocal noises are accompanied by fast, furious guitar sounds which really work well together to produce a fantastic sound. It is on this track especially that John McGeoch's punchy guitar work shines through. This song is so catchy I love it.
"Lunar Camel" is a much more Goth inspired track. This is a slow song with very little musical arrangement to accompany Siouxsie's voice. It is quite melancholy but still easy to listen to and lose yourself in Siouxsie's beautiful voice.
"Christine" along with "Happy House" is probably the best-known song here. This track was released as the second single from the album and reached number 24 in the UK singles chart. This is a superb track that has a very catchy tune, but it still hints at the darker side of band. Christine Sizemore, who suffered from a split personality disorder, inspired this song. The lyrics are quite amusing but have a more serious side to them too. "Now she's in purple, now she's a turtle..."
"Desert Kisses" has a Middle Eastern feel to it. This is another excellent song, which is quite dreamy in places, whilst at other moments it is quite loud and furious.
"Red Light" is quite a scary song. It has a very modern, electronic sound to it and in places an echo has been added to Siouxsie's voice. This is a song about photography, and in particular it is about photographing a model at a photo shoot.
"Paradise Place" is full of wild, swirling sounds. It is quite atmospheric and Gothic. This song is about Plastic Surgery.
"Skin" is a superb track and certainly one of the album's highlights. This is a quality song which sees everything that is good about Siouxsie and the Banshees coming together. It is an upbeat track but as with many of these songs these lyrics have a serious message. Essentially this is a song about animal fur, whether it is pro or against I have never quite worked out, but it is a twisted tale of a woman who becomes so obsessed with wearing fur that she begins to yearn to wear human skin. Very scary stuff indeed.
"Kaleidoscope" is a superb album and a direct response to the critics that were so eager to write the band off, following the release of their second album "Join Hands."
In many ways this album was the turning point in the bands career. A career that was to last for the next two decades. Looking back songs that feature on this album like
"Trophy" "Red Light" and "Skin" would later be described as typical Siouxsie and the Banshees songs.
It is perhaps no co-incidence that this was the first of the bands Album's to feature Budgie on percussion and drums. He would later become the major influencing factor of the band, along with Siouxsie, as well as also becoming Siouxsie's future husband, and partner in their spin off band, The Creatures, along with Robert Smith from the Cure.
28 years on this in still an excellent collection of songs.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Happy House
6 Lunar Camel
8 Desert Kisses
9 Red Light
10 Paradise Place