Siouxsie Sioux at 60: more than a monochrome goth-pop priestess

Siouxsie Sioux at 60: more than a monochrome goth-pop priestess

60 years? Well…

“What I really resent about people sticking labels on you,” said Siouxsie Sioux in 2004, “is that it cuts off the other elements of what you are, because it can only deal with black and white: the cartoon.” This sometimes threatens to become the legacy of Sioux, who turns 60 tomorrow: to be fixed in time as the aloof monochrome priestess who defined a subculture. “I hate all that,” she grumbled to the Guardian in 2005, while discussing her tiresome reign as “the queen of goth”.

Sioux might hate “all that”, but it was that macabre mystique that first made me fall for the Banshees. I wish every band could look and sound like a nightmarish glam-punk gang summoned from the netherworld. I adore their fourth album, Juju, a fantastic dark swirl of spooky sounds and old-magick themes that’s both their quintessential goth statement and a sacred text for the subgenre (the track titles read like a shelf of old penny dreadfuls: Spellbound, Halloween, Voodoo Dolly, Sin in My Heart). The problem, as Sioux herself has argued, is in the glibness of other people’s interpretations. “Gothic in its purest sense is actually a very powerful, twisted genre, but the way it was being used by by journalists – goff with a double f – always seemed to me to be about tacky harum-scarum horror, and I find that anything but scary,” she once said. “That wasn’t what we were about at all.” You can see her point: Juju also includes, for example, the truly terrifying sci-fi horror of Monitor, a grinding death disco-throb with her shrieking, grim, Ballardian visions of CCTV-ruled dystopia over a loop of twisted metal guitars.

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