Once Upon a Time: The Singles collects all ten of Siouxsie and the Banshees' A-sides spanning the years 1978-1981, with four songs otherwise unavailable on LP. It's a neat and accessible encapsulation of the group's early guitar-driven sound -- a frosty, dissonant art punk that had a tremendous impact on the emerging goth rock scene. Unlike similarly forbidding work by such proto-goth contemporaries as Joy Division or the Cure, the early Banshees were tense and visceral; the darkness of the Once Upon a Time singles doesn't come from a sense of downcast gloom so much as it does from a jittery angst. Yet as challenging as the music is, it's also accessible enough for eight of these singles to have charted in the British Top 50. The melodies are angular and almost alien, yes, but oddly memorable once the listener has assimilated them. Starting shortly after the period covered by this collection, Siouxsie Sioux's icy detachment would be fused with an elegant romanticism and lusher, smoother arrangements. Which means that Once Upon a Time isn't the one, definitive Banshees compilation, but it is a cohesive and essential overview of the band's edgy, influential peak.
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey