Siouxsie and The Banshees - Kaleidoscope

‘Kaleidoscope’ follows hard on the heels of the morale-boosting chart successes of ‘Christine’ and
‘Happy House’, both of which are featured here. ‘Christine’, the story of the schizophrenic with 22 clashing personalities, was breathtaking: strong, steady drumming, a running bass, a skilful acoustic guitar and Siouxsie’s compassionate vocals all evoke perfectly the song’s stark atmosphere.

‘Happy House’ was great pop as well, everything moving together to form its own distinctive sound. And now ‘Kaleidoscope’ – a series of sketches each evoking its own atmosphere and place. ‘Happy House’ kicks off Side One before ‘Tenant’ is ushered in with a slow, almost Public Image feel, with Severin contributing electric sitar, among other things. ‘Trophy’ is a McGeogh number with a recurring guitar motif and an exploration by Siouxsie of the futility of remembering past triumphs.

‘Hybrid’, though meticulously constructed, tends to outstay its welcome, while ‘Clockface’ seems trite, save for Siouxsie’s chanting. The side ends with ‘Lunar Camel’: slow, a trifle draggy, it lacks characteristic Banshee purpose or direction.
Side Two: ‘Desert Kisses’ boasts a great swirling feel of power and intent with Siouxsie’s voice reminding us of its unique quality. ‘Red Frame’ is almost Human League but with more depth and darkness, while ‘Paradise Place’ and ‘Skin’ are just classic Banshee pieces. Hypnotic, relentless, and incisive, both feature Steve Jones on guitar, revealing a hitherto unknown side of the (S)ex Pistol.

As the title implies, ‘Kaleidoscope’ aims to give the listener exactly that. A kaleidoscope of sound and imagery, new forms, and content, flashing before our eyes. Undoubtedly a lot of the album
is a success on those terms, but even after about ten plays it’s still hard to fully grasp ‘Kaleidoscope’ as a concrete whole. Or maybe that’s the beauty.

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