Record Review: Siouxsie + The Banshees – Downside Up

Polydor | UK | 4xCD | 2004 | 982 182-3

Siouxsie + The Banshees – Downside Up UK box [2004]

Disc 1

  1. Voices (On The Air)
  2. 20th Century Boy
  3. Pulled To Bits
  4. Mittageisen (Metal Postcard)
  5. Drop Dead / Celebration
  6. Eve White / Eve Black
  7. Red Over White
  8. Follow The Sun
  9. Slap Dash Snap
  10. Supernatural Thing
  11. Congo Conga
  12. We Fall
  13. Cannibal Roses
  14. Obsession II
  15. A Sleeping Rain
  16. Est Né, Le Divin Enfant

Disc 2

  1. Tattoo
  2. (There’s A) Planet In My Kitchen
  3. Let Go
  4. The Humming Wires
  5. I Promise
  6. Throw Them To The Lions
  7. An Execution
  8. The Quarterdrawing Of The Dog
  9. Lullaby
  10. Shooting Gun
  11. Sleepwalking (On The High Wire)
  12. She Cracked
  13. She’s Cuckoo
  14. Something Blue
  15. The Whole Price Of Blood
  16. Mechanical Eyes

Disc 3

  1. False Face
  2. Catwalk
  3. Something Wicked (This Way Comes)
  4. Are You Still Dying, Darling?
  5. El Dia De Los Muertos
  6. Sunless
  7. Staring Back
  8. Return
  9. Spiral Twist
  10. Sea Of Light
  11. I Could Be Again
  12. Hothead
  13. B Side Ourselves
  14. Swimming Horses (Live)
  15. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Live)
  16. Black Sun

Disc 4 – The Thorn EP

  1. Overground
  2. Voices (On The Air)
  3. Placebo Effect
  4. Red Over White

Longtime readers of this blog may have heard me discuss BSOGs – my acronym for “boxed sets of god” that contain all of an artist’s output that do not appear on their albums as originally released. While I enjoy the challenge and discipline of researching, compiling the resources [i.e. buying the records], remastering the source materials to sound as good as possible, and finally designing and manufacturing the sacred object itself, it does entail a huge amount of effort. While there’s no denying that regarding the final object in my hands holds pleasures that money can’t buy, I have nothing against labels doing the same thing in principle!

I came to Siouxsie + The Banshees fairly late to the game. I first heard their excellent “Christine” single on WORJ’s “Import Hour” back in 1979. When their subsequent “JuJu” album was released in 1980, I quickly bought it on import after seeing the video for “Spellbound” on Rockworld. I managed to keep my hands stirring the Banshees pot for the rest of their career. Never quite crossing the line into obsession [though I knew some who did], but buying any albums and singles that crossed my path. Most of their body of work repaid listening [apart from the quasi-tragic “Superstition” album in 1991] and after years of seeing one vendor always with a box of almost every Polydor 7″ for under $10 each for years at Orlando record shows, in the late 90s, I started to compile all of the singles for a BSOG-in-planning.

Unfortunately, at that time, one could no longer pick up “Playground Twist” on UK 7″ for $6.00 from Tom’s Records. So I began buying the early 7″ers for about three times that price. A few here and there for several years, along with any 12″/CD singles I didn’t already have. I can sometimes take 7-10 years to finish the job, so I was amazed to read of this boxed set from Polydor in 2004 that saved me a lot of work and money. The conceit is pure and simple; every B-side to every single they released on Polydor UK is contained within this set along with their “Thorn” EP, which never had a CD release.

The design and execution of the package is clean and attractive with four CDs in a hardcover case with the liner notes bound in book form between the covers. The band discuss each release and give their insights and opinions on that single and its related b-sides. The one thing that sets this project apart from my approach, is that I would have included all of the 12″ remixes not on albums as well, and and non-LP A-sides from singles, which were common for the band in their early years. I also would have added US-only remixes and promo tracks that had surfaced over the years, but that can only be done when lawyers are not in the room, so I appreciate that I can not usually buy something that approaches the level of completeness that I usually strive for. But as a project that has a wide ranging but limited focus: strictly non-LP B-sides, this box really hits the mark! As far as I know, there are no glaring omissions.

I was familiar with about a third of this material previously, but when compiled so thoroughly, it shows how wide-ranging the sound of Siouxsie + The Banshees developed over the years. The band were all over the map, stylistically, but never let anything but the darkest sense of humor glint through their steely façade. I was happy to receive this box as a gift from my wife the year of release. There’s still that supplementary box of 12″ mixes/promo mixes/and anything out there I might not yet be aware of that I’m still working on to accompany this in my Record Cell.

– 30 –

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6 Responses to Record Review: Siouxsie + The Banshees – Downside Up

  1. Echorich says:

    Possibly one of the best boxed sets I own based on packaging, content and execution! I have always been an obsessive Banshees fan. Rapture is the only release that gives me pause, but still is not so wholey devoid of merit.
    Downside Up is a fantastic title and tells you everything you need to know in those two words. It contains 6 of my all time favorite Banshees recordings – Eve White, Eve Black, Follow The Sun, Slap Dash Snap, Supernatural Thing (“spooky, spooky”), She’s Cuckoo and Something Wicked This Way Comes!! Banshee B-sides, especially during the Kaleidiscope and JuJu era are equal to those tracks that appeared on the albums.
    The Banshees’ live reading of All Tomorrow’s Parties is both entrancing and somehow very wicked. That bad trip your older cousin told you could happen if you took the wrong blotter tab.
    The Overground EP inclusion is truly icey icing on this dark cake. I have cherished my vinyl copy and had only underwhelming quality mp3’s of these songs until I purchased the box set.
    I wonder if there might be a Banshees Rock GPA around the bend…

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  2. postpunkmonk says:

    Echorich – There were three boxed sets that came out that season by groups that I liked and yes, this is easily the best one. The Cure “Connect The Dots” is a fine overview of rarities but there are gaps in the set. Why, for example, didn’t they include the Cult Hero single? It’s not like I could afford it otherwise, even if I cared that much. They seemed to skip around at the end – which actually is fine since I’m only a casual Cure fan. Thank goodness they included both of the “Inbetween Days” B-sides! That was my bottom line.

    The Simple Minds “Silver Box” is absolutely ghastly! Most of it is dross [10 minute live tracks – with BONO!!!] and the design is horrific! Only the BBC sessions are worth it, and there are tracks missing from those! I would have preferred a full BBC sessions set in lieu of that albatross!

    Ah, but the Banshees set is a kind of perfection. Elegant and perfect, if limited in its scope. Believe it or not, a Banshees Rock GPA can’t happen; I don’t have “The Scream” or “Join Hands.” I have heard “The Scream” 30 years ago, but I’ve never heard “Join Hands.” I’ve also never heard “Nocturne.”

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    • Echorich says:

      I can’t say enough about Nocturne Monk!! I own very very few live albums, in fact probably less that I have fingers on my left hand, but Nocturne is really special. A band who has just lost the greatest post punk guitarist, invites the leader of another band – who is also a mate, to take the lead on a tour AND decides to release it on vinyl for posterity – Siouxsie and company had balls!
      It’s a funny, sort of Spinal Tap stereotype of bands running through drummers like groupies, but for the Banshees, hanging on to lead guitarists seemed to always be an issue. Pete Fenton, John Mckay, John McGeoch, Robert Smith (twice), John Valentine Carruthers, Jon Klein and finally Knox Chandler. Fenton was deemed unsuitable because he was a real guitarist. McKay wanted to be a rock star and that just didn’t move Siouxsie. McGeoch was pink slipped after alcohol began taking over his life. Smith over-indulged and left to maintain his sanity. Carruthers never really felt like a Banshee to me and I believe Sioux and Severin felt the same way…but his playing on Tinderbox and Through The Looking Glass is massive! Klein was a perfect fit gangly and very much a child of the Banshees as a former member of Goth band Specimen.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – McGeoch gets my vote as the ultimate Banshees guitarist, but I don’t dislike any of their revolving guitarists. No one involved with The Banshees stuck out to me as inappropriate – save for Stephen Hague! I bought the “Nocturne” laserdisc but I could never watch it because the pressing was faulty in some way. I bought one, it didn’t play, took it back, got another copy, it had the same defect, and by then I saw the writing on the wall.

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        • Echorich says:

          Ah laser discs….I only ever bought one – Japan’s Oil On Canvas…oh and I never owned a laserdisk player…hmmm I think I have a Berserker era Numan Concert video somewhere that’s only PAL too…I think sometimes I just wanted to have some releases, even if I couldn’t play them-EVER.

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          • postpunkmonk says:

            Echorich – Wow. I could never score a copy of “Oil On Canvas!” Of course, it was shot in such soft focus filtering that even on LD it looked like VHS! I remember being entranced by Mick Karn’s purely Cartesian movements.

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