A commanding presence in British punk since the later 1970s, and creating out of that — along with Joy Division, The Cure, Bauhaus — an overpowering, dark music that came to be known as goth, Siouxsie and her Banshees moved their music towards romantic intoxication. Siouxsie brought light to the dark, deftly drawing rich melodies from the shadows draping the songs. Bassist Steven Severin foregrounded the twilight with a nervy, often high-up-the-neck playing, while Budgie’s tribal pounding gave the band’s work a pulse-quickening danceability at the edge of chaos. A rotating cast of like-minded souls added instruments as needed, and fans of the band’s various guitarists across its 17-year recording career can be fairly territorial regarding the shifting lineups.
You can hear in Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain (1984) a fascination with the Banshee’s A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982), with “Melt” maybe having some direct influence on “Nocturnal Me.” (Although — it would probably be just as fair to say that both bands were obsessed with “Venus in Furs”-era Velvet Underground, a goth cornerstone.) “Melt” is a dirge of self-immolation — loss of identity — in being consumed by a lover, its explicit sexuality dealt as poetry from the view of a succubus. Appropriately, the vampyric backing is suggestive of an older, more eastern, Europe, but with a restraint that sends a chill rather than a horror show laugh (something to which goth rock is all too susceptible).
This live version of “Melt” is from an episode of the Old Grey Whistle Test in December 1982, and captures Siouxsie and the Banshees with the Cure’s Robert Smith, who stepped in to replace John McGeoch on guitar and would stay to help write and record 1984’s Hyaena. The performance is notable for Smith’s presence, of course, but also for the kind of sound and vibe the band could get live while staying fairly lean. A lament, a shake and a shiver — “Melt!” is a key to the goth rock kingdom.
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