All this week we're going to look back over albums from undeniable goth icons and talk about their failures.
By the time Siouxsie and the Banshees released The Rapture in 1995, they had been together for almost two decades. They'd blazed a path with a dark and daring sound that still had just enough pop to entice two generations of spooky youngsters, and you will never for a second find me saying that Siouxsie and Steve Severin should be considered anything other than two of the most important names in goth composition.
But their final, 11th album remains a total mess. Even for a band that was always known for tackling a lot of different angles on their records there is an incredibly fractured feeling that you can't get past.
Part of it is that the band was pretty clearly staying together at that point because they were, commercially speaking, a very successful live band in the mid-'90s. They'd been a major act in the first Lollapalooza, and were enjoying the fruits of a long and productive career, even if they never seemed terribly comfortable with that label. Both Siouxsie and Severin said in interviews around that time they didn't consider themselves either old or iconic.
You'd think that having John Cale produce and album would be the absolute best thing to wed those two points back together, but it wasn't enough. I know many goths who scream that Cale should not have been allowed anywhere near the record, but the songs that he produced are honestly not in any significant way different than the work of the band on their own. Having said that, not much good comes of splitting up your album under two creative forces in two different time periods as they did, something that contributes heavily to the dissonance.
Which is sad because taken individually many of the tracks on Rapture are perfectly awesome. "Fall From Grace" for example is Siouxsie in her most eloquently melancholic. The song has all the earmarks of a great Banshees number, what with her stream of consciousness and somewhat violent lyrics over an almost night club progression.
Or you could look at "Sick Girl," which is a rarity in the banshees catalog in that Budgie wrote the lyrics. You might remember it from a pretty neat scene in a pretty awful movie called The Craft. It's an unnerving little tune that harkens back to Juju. If there's anything that the Banshees had been missing lately it was the ability to disturb, their contribution to Batman Returns notwithstanding.
Songs like that are honestly the meat on some very moldy bread, though. The two lead singles, "O Baby" and "Stargazer" sound more like b-sides from Superstition than new and exciting work. Shouldn't that be a good thing?
After all, Superstition is a fantastic record with gems like "Kiss Them for Me" and my favorite Banshees tune of all, "Shadowtime." Yet it's also the record that was most clearly aimed at the mainstream in production, and that's just a big no-no most of the time in goth music.
Talent is hitting the target, genius is hitting the target no one knew was there.
Lurking in The Rapture are two very good EPs that tried very hard to be an album. The ending of the record, starting with the brilliant but epic-length title track, could have stood as its own as a kind of omni-single. Stuck as it is past the broken glass of the earlier executions you just don't have the patience to wade through it, and that means you miss "The Double Life." Birthed from the beginning of all the '90s would become in music, the song is wonderfully insane and hard-rockish.
That's the problem, though. In the end the Banshees were tired of being the Banshees by then. Just as a man who has lost his passion for a certain song can still play it flawlessly, they could grab the tiger by the tail to churn out great work. These songs, in the hands of an earlier incarnation or maybe even another full-time producer, could have been gold.
Instead, Siouxsie's powerful pipes sound reedy, and Severin's playing lacks passion. Budgie alone goes full-tilt boogie, but he's basically a human Muppet without an off switch, so that's to be expected. The Rapture disappoints because it is so obviously asking to be the end of the legendary band.
Tune in tomorrow for more of the Five Most Disappointing Goth Albums.