Siouxsie and the Banshees

Voices on the Air: The Peel Sessions

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Siouxsie & the Banshees were still unsigned and, according to the U.K. music industry, unsignable, when they visited the BBC studios for the first time; an absurd state of affairs that so wholly belied the band's live and critical acclaim that, for a time, there was talk of the BBC itself releasing their first single, a straightforward rendering of their debut John Peel session. Ultimately, it never happened. The BBC hierarchy was no more enamored of the Banshees' brittle, and so controversial, approach than any other label out there. But the story still serves to remind just how powerful the band's maiden Peel session was, and the four tracks that open Voices on the Air: The Peel Sessions, recorded in December 1977 (and including a ferocious "Metal Postcard"), offer a fiery statement of intent from what became one of the key bands of the next two decades. A second session the following February wraps up the key elements of the group's early repertoire, a dry run (and in some places, superior blueprint) for what would become their debut album, The Scream. An indication of the speed at which the Banshees were developing, meanwhile, can be drawn from their next BBC offering: four songs previewing Join Hands in April 1979. "Playground Twist" is especially effective here. Two years elapsed before the band's next session (and over a decade before their final one) and the performances that conclude this disc are excellent. But they cannot be compared with what had gone before. Through the '80s and '90s, after all, the Banshees were merely making albums. At birth through the late '70s, they were making epochs.

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