Do The Banshee Dance!

Powerful, primitive vocals and techno-flavored music.

What do you do after you've split up your first-generation punk band of

almost 20 years in order to avoid becoming part of the nostalgia boom? If you're Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie of the Banshees, you re-form your

side project of 15 years standing (the Creatures), call it a move forward and feign ignorance about the contradictions inherent in such a move.

But then Siouxsie & Budgie have long thrived on contradictions. Take,

for example, Siouxsie, the original punk vixen, a permanent fixture

alongside the Sex Pistols back in '76, putting an end to the Banshees in

'95, when the Pistols reunited for money's sake. Or Siouxsie, undisputed

founder of modern goth, forever assailing her audience for having the

temerity to follow suit. Or Budgie, drummer for original avant-punk

feminist pioneers the Slits, later joining the famously tempestuous

Banshees (who went through guitarists

like some bands go through guitar strings) and stunning all by winning

the heart of Sioux the famous Ice Queen for apparent eternity. And

finally Siouxsie and Budgie -- the couple who were pictured naked and

kissing in the shower on the cover of an early-'80s Creatures single --

settling down to a life of cat-accompanied domestic bliss in the South

of France.

So perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised if the couple's answer to the

constraints of two decades in the Banshees is to take immediate refuge in

another lineup with equally fixed reference points. As on Creatures'

previous albums (Feast and Boomerang), Anima Animus

strips the music down to its core. Each track is founded on

Budgie's tribal, tom tom-dominated drumming and Siouxsie's distinctive

primal wail, long before anything else is added to the mix. On more than

a few occasions the extra ingredient comes from the modern dance floor:

a synth bassline quickly announces itself on the opening cut, "Second

Floor"; "Say" goes for drum machines and trancey accompaniments; and

hippie rave act Juno Reactor gets in on the production of the lengthy,

moody and frequently caustic "Exterminating Angel." Some will see this

as bandwagon-jumping, but it's not: the Banshees were commissioning

Junior Vasquez remixes almost a decade ago, and the best of either of

this couple's music, from the swagger of the Slits to the swing of the

Creatures' "Right Now," has always worked on the dance floor.

Anima Animus has many distinctive moments to commend it, from the

tribalism of "Turn It On" and "Take Mine" to the deliberately warped

opening of "Prettiest Thing" and the unmistakable Banshees lyrical

hangover that permeates "Disconnected" (with its "frozen lands of

Siberia" and the lazy Goth line, "Oh the pain of joy, the joy of pain").

The album's downfall is its lack of truly classic moments. Whether as

the Banshees or the Creatures, Siouxsie and Budgie have always locked

onto a solid hook-line in the middle of their sometimes torturous

meanderings. And yet on Anima Animus, they spend too much time

unraveling the intestines of a song rather than focusing on the meat of

the matter. As a return to the world of experimentation and true

artistic independence -- after having succumbed for so long to

record-company and audience expectations -- Anima Animus is a

decisive step in an uncertain direction.