Post punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees are well represented in punk and post punk historiography, notably as fans of - and later, support act for - the Sex Pistols and for pioneering a unique, avant-garde and cinema-inspired musicality through the early to mid-1980s. Aside from Sheila Whiteley’s work on lead vocalist Siouxsie Sioux, the band remain surprisingly absent from academic studies, despite an enduring resonance amongst contemporary musicians.
Drawing on research for a forthcoming 33 1/3 series book on Peepshow, this paper will analyze the construction of Siouxsie Sioux’s vocal performances in the 1988 album Peepshow. Using a tech-processual mode of analysis, the ‘staging’ of Sioux’s voice is illuminated via 2 key examples. The underlying multi-intertextual form and a maximized stereo field in ‘Peek-A-Boo’ creates a heady, claustrophobic ‘peep show’ stage for Sioux’s objectified stripper persona. Alternating natural, band-pass filtered and volume-automated vocal lines creates 3 different viewpoints from the perspective of the persona: commentary on the peep show environment as experienced by the stripper; the stripper’s opinions on her viewers; and, discussion on her own contrived movements designed to trick and beguile her viewers. ‘Peek-A-Boo’ is also considered as epitomising Mulvey’s ‘male gaze’ concept and is situated in the wider context of early cinema. The second example, this time situated in the context of horror film genre, deals with the construction of another persona in the album track ‘Rawhead and Bloodybones’. A common trope in horror films is the placement of child-oriented signifiers to exacerbate fear. ‘Rawhead and Bloodybones’ draws directly from this repertoire, particularly in the construction of fright from the perspective of a young girl. In this track, Sioux’s persona is hiding from ‘Rawhead’. The application of reverb with a short decay time combined with a modulated, slap-back delay to Sioux’s child-like voice - particularly against the backdrop of a repetitive, modulated ‘musical box’ melody line - stages and contains the voice within 2 hiding places: firstly, the cupboard; and, later into the track, the well.
Dr Samantha Bennett is Senior Lecturer in Music at the Australian National University. She is published in Popular Music, Popular Music and Society and in The Oxford Handbook on Music & Virtuality. Her first book, Modern Records, Maverick Methods: Technology and Process in Contemporary Record Production is forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press’ ‘Tracking Pop’ series. She is currently working on a 33 1/3 series book on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Peepshow.