The Enduring Relevance of Siouxsie and the Banshees

'Cities in Dust' — A Song for the Ages

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Why you should care

Because at nearly 30 years old, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ killer song Cities in Dust is as relevant as ever.

For fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones , the countdown to its Season Four premier was downright excruciating, exciting and exhausting.

Teasers for the GOT season provided sweet relief, including this one, in which The Everlove’s stripped-down cover of Siouxsie and the BansheesCities in Dust, sets the musical backdrop for impending doom in Westeros. (When a trailer closes with the words “All Men Must Die,” happy times are not afoot.)

But as enticing as the new Everlove version is, it just doesn’t match the thrill of the original version by post-punk, avant-garde Brit band, Siouxsie and the Banshees, which was released in 1985.

Cities in Dust was the first single off the Banshees’ seventh studio album, Tinderbox, and marked their first American 12-inch release (Geffen Records). From its opening electronic notes evoking the trickle of water — or is it lava? — Siouxsie lures us into a haunted world of synthesizers, layered percussion, urgent drums and her signature powerful vocals.

Her voice is the perfect complement to the lyrics, which reference the destruction of the lost city of Pompeii to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The accompanying old-school musicvideo — with its dancing skeleton marionettes, high school project-worthy volcano and writhing men in leotards —inelegantly tries to capture the horrors of the tragedy.

Cities in Dust
was one of many written during the band’s 20-year run (1976-1996). Core band members Siouxsie Sioux (nee Susan Janet Ballion) and bassist Stephen Severin met as acolytes of the then-unsigned Sex Pistols. They eventually formed their own band, joined by longstanding drummer Budgie and a revolving door of other members including Robert Smith of the Cure — twice.

As one of the founders of the “goth-rock” genre, the Banshees count a wide-ranging list of bands among its legions of fans: megabands U2 and Radiohead; guitar-heavy rock acts like Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; folk-rock guitarist Jeff Buckley; and newcomer electronic artist Santigold.  

As if the nod from the fanatically popular GOT isn’t enough to showcase the continued relevance of Siouxsie and the Banshees, on April 7th, their debut 1978 single “Hong Kong Garden” will be re-released on seven-inch vinyl, as part of Universal’s plan to distribute box sets of the band’s best archival material.

Almost three decades later, the lyrics of Cities in Dust remain relevant: “We found you hiding / We found you lying / Choking on the dirt and sand / Your former glories and all the stories / Dragged and washed with eager hands”

Rather appropriate for the medieval GOT , wouldn’t you say? 




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