Anniversary

A(nother) love letter to Siouxsie And The Banshees

September marks a whopping ten years since “Into The Light” blew my mind, but I face the same old question once again. Where do I begin with my favorite band? When every Banshees album had it’s formative role for me, describing one for as many as five paragraphs wouldn’t say enough.

Making my way through each of SATB’s eleven albums (combined with the just-as-creative Creatures albums) was a true journey. Each had it’s own world and fragrance so to speak. Few songs meandered together as they weren’t the types to repeat themselves. They helped typify the enduring goth/post-punk sound (as much as they hated such connections), but they did so while thinking far beyond the boxing that the genres could bring. Siouxie would state that those boxing them were struggling to simplify something they didn’t understand. From The Creatures’ incredibly un-rock, xylophone-loving experiments to the near-heavenly flourishes on Hyaena, The Banshees’ music had an imagination that they refused to water down for others’ expectations. Instead, they littered their releases with anything that struck this imagination.

Albums like Dreamhouse and Hyaena took post-punk’s creative potential to their own surrealist, melodically rich wonderland while leaving an influence so large that I find it underestimated to this day. This goes without mentioning the b-sides, where they got as uncommercial and diverse as they wanted, covering a French holiday standard and burying metallic guitar textures with proto trip-hop in the same era. Oh, and this wasn’t the only time they’d cram an iconic earworm like ‘Cities In Dust’ in between. In fact, Siouxsie mentioned that the band loved to put the weirdest b-sides on the catchiest singles to mess with their newfound listeners.

(Budgie would introduce one new rhythmic style after another like it was nothing when he wasn’t inventing a whole new beat (“Land’s End”). As much as McGeoch would embody the classic ‘spidery’ post-punk sound at it’s best (“Spellbound”), nearly every Banshee guitarist evoked fascinatingly different imagery to what I was used to seeing with ‘rock’. (As Siouxsie stated herself, they would always go for a guitar that didn’t ‘sound like guitar’; at least not the average one.) Bloodcurdling nightmares (“Night Shift”), the weightless motion and fog of a helicopter (“Sleepwalking”); the most majestic beast in the sky (“Fireworks”). Where the guitarists came and went, I could count on Steven Severin’s subtle murmurs of bass; they would take me to strange forests or the quiet presence of fireflies. I could go on here.

Siouxsie’s evolution as a singer was a wonder in itself. Contrary to the ‘goth queen’ implications, she could do justice to a whole rainbow of moods. She could be The Scream’s boisterous rebel, the enigma with a warning, an emotive balladeer, the playful witch delighting in chaos. The early 80s material could turn her into this show-stealing burst of desperation and passion. She always brought danger to the intrigue or vice versa, a perfect fit for the band’s own aspiration to capture the thrill of Hitchcock films. While she struggled with pitch for sure, her range just added onto that intrigue, able to reach both rich, mesmerizing lows and hysterical bird-like highs.

Ten years on I can say that SATB was where my music obsession kicked off for real. Few niches in music fascinate me as much as that early-80s ‘alternative’ renaissance they represented so well. While the music I make has little in common with Siouxsie’s up to now, I’ll always aspire to her effortless cool.

Playlist

Blood-Stained Roses: Siouxsie Beyond The Singles

Listen Here

Basically an update/expansion on the Siouxsie ‘intro playlist’ I kept reposting here.

So maybe you know ‘Happy House’ or ‘Spellbound’ or another early Banshees hit? That’s great but on ‘Siouxsie Day’, I feel the push to promote a deeper look. Iconic as the big singles were, I feel that this is the tip of the iceberg.

This is a collection for the curious listener who wants to know more about Siouxsie’s more adventurous tastes and gradual evolution throughout her many many projects. After all, we’re talking about 16 albums in all. Sticking to only two or three ‘sides’ of such a prolific figure doesn’t do her justice. As powerful and crucial as the Juju era was, think of the constant misconceptions it inspired. Even Siouxsie would reiterate in interviews; not only was attaining a hit single not a priority, but that b-sides contained the Banshees’ most creative work. (For instance, the proto-trip hop ’Tattoo’.)

From the jazzy mallets of ‘Weathercade’ to Hyaena’s elegant flourishes, to the spacey trip-hop of Anima Animus and her haunting Hannibal finale theme, I hope for this to show new facets to Siouxsie’s music that you might have missed. Title comes from John McGeoch’s summary for the specific musical tension that SATB aimed to create.

(Combining the Once and Twice Upon A Time single collections does make a good intro if you want something more immediate, but note that Twice includes neither single from The Rapture. I do throw in some fantastic non-album singles since they didn’t get the same attention.)

Part 1: The first eight years
Staircase Mystery (Stand-alone single)
Mirage (The Scream)
Placebo Effect (Join Hands)
Desert Kisses (Kaleidoscope)
Into The Light (Juju)
Mad Eyed Screamer (The Creatures – Wild Things EP)
Fireworks (Stand-alone single)
Obsession (A Kiss In The Dreamhouse)
Morning Dawning (The Creatures – Feast)
Weathercade (The Creatures – ‘Right Now’ b-side)
Pulled To Bits (Nocturne live version)
Tattoo (‘Dear Prudence’ B-side)
Overground (The Thorn orchestral version)
Belladonna (Hyaena)
The Sweetest Chill (Tinderbox)

Part 2: Late 80’s to 2015
Song From The Edge Of The World (Stand-alone single)
Hall Of Mirrors (Through The Looking Glass)
Sleepwalking (‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ B-side)
Scarecrow (Peepshow)
Manchild (The Creatures – Boomerang)
Little Sister (Superstition)
Face To Face (Batman Returns soundtrack)
Sick Child (The Rapture)
Pinned Down (The Creatures – Eraser Cut EP)
Another Planet (The Creatures – Anima Animus)
All She Could Ask For (The Creatures – U.S. Retrace EP)
Further Nearer (The Creatures – HAI!)
Cish Cash w/ Basement Jaxx
Sea Of Tranquility (Mantaray solo debut)
Love Crime (Hannibal soundtrack)

Mix · My music · On other sites · update

May 12th, 2 PM Pacific on CAMP radio: a companion mix to my upcoming ‘Seahorses’ album

While this ‘archive album’ is suffering the worst case of delay since my 8-bit album last year, I’m still set on getting it out there this month, hopefully before it enters the ‘late’ period. To coincide, I decided to guest on Vulpiano’s monthly mix series for the listen.camp online radio station with a dip into the sounds and styles that inspired the album. I always felt that electronic music and easy listening shared this understated knack for aquatic or underwater themes, so this was a novel concept to revisit.

That means lots of ‘underwater’/surreal production effects, synths that go drip-drop, library obscurities themed around marine life, steel drums and a handful of surprises. For instance: the latest Bebel Gilberto album, which sounds eerily close to mall-themed vaporwave, and one of the most underrated Siouxsie singles in “Swimming Horses” (just because). Plus, of course, two tracks from Seahorses itself. Those are latest single “Fish In Oceania” and “Blue Whale” (which I lift from the download-only version of Ocean Flower; it actually originates from the Seahorses project).

The mix will go up on CAMP’s Mixcloud in the following days. You’ll find ‘similar wavelengths’ on my old Curios From The Background series and the Neptune mix.

Seahorses working track list:

  1. Fish In Oceania – 2:00
  2. Floating By – 2:19
  3. Dorsal Fin – 2:21
  4. Manatee – 2:11
  5. In Our Submarine – 2:16
  6. A Wandering School – 2:03
  7. Mouthbrooder – 2:12
  8. Jellyfish – 2:03
  9. Sand Dollar – 2:37
  10. Blue Whale – 2:54

Download-only tracks:

Deep Trenches demo (0:45), Seahorses (2:15), Lullaby For Sad Porpoise (2:26)

Other updates:

  1. As for the ‘piece’ I mentioned working on with the Mouthbrooder post, that found it’s way to a rough and complex state. I’m not so sure what to do with it right now and sadly, posting it in some form here feels more doubtful than before.
  2. In this next month or so, I’d love to get back to more regular posts, since my extreme focus on That Piece led to delay for many ideas. Still, I think I have enough to juggle for May considering my plans for a special occasion in it’s last week. It’s nothing too big or fancy, but it’s a day I posted about on most previous years here!
  3. I’m in plans of the next ‘traditional MAM mix’, but it’s not happening until sometime in summer. It can say it has some things in common with the previous one..
  4. New RYM lists: [bitter]sweet / loving / emotional synthpop, Beautiful Robots Dancing Alone: existential trance, Lyrics I find interesting / relatable
  5. No plans for front page reviews at RYM right now. I have more important stuff on my plate; I did a lot already and the Dax Pierson review got a frustrating enough response to remind me why I ‘retired’ from it.
  6. The new album from the very 80s, very YMO-ish J-pop group Crystal is ridiculously fun and also beautiful, please listen to it.
Mix

Just Breathe: a deep dive back into 2000s chillout music

Listen here

Warm up from your self-isolation and winter cold with a flashback to one of the most evocative sounds in pop and electronic music; from the haunting, therapeutic classic ‘Breathe’ to mesmerizing lost gems like Gaelle’s ‘Rain’. The sound of skyscrapers blurring together into endless bokeh lights; all the wooshing synths, e-pianos and warm basslines you could want. Originally a list on RYM.

‘DISC 1’

white flag – dido / halo – kate havnevik / let go – frou frou (imogen heap w/ guy sigsworth) / o papierkach – nosowska / midnight lounge + love hangover – jody watley / loving you – lemongrass / rain – gaelle / ho humm – moloko / take control – t-love / sublime – supreme beings of leisure / everybody changes underwater – dannii minogue / juz za kilka lat – iza lach

‘DISC 2’

slow down – morcheeba / you won’t forget about me (lounge mix) – dannii minogue / metro (from nancy drew: danger by design) – kevin manthei / a day in the park – ryuichi sakamoto / volunteer – grace jones / memory without consequence – takahashi & jansen / me odio cuando miento – fangoria / breathe – télépopmusik / fragile – kylie minogue / dizzy – siouxsie and the banshees / black cherry – goldfrapp / say – the creatures / goldfish – siobhan donaghy / conversation’s over – sugababes / have you never ever – margaret berger

Further Listening:
– My own Curios From The Background mixes, particularly #4 and #5
– The Hedkandi Winter Chill compilations
– Mono’s “Life In Mono”
– Margaret Berger’s “Mind Game” and “Naive (16)”
– Moloko’s “Day For Night”
– Royksopp with Anneli Drecker – “Sparks” and “You Don’t Have A Clue”
– Royksopp’s “Forsaken Cowboy”


Mix

Into The Light / a mix about ghosts

Tropic Of Cancer – A Color

LISTEN HERE

More playlists for Halloween: The Bitter And The Sweet / The Room Of Corners / Scary But Fun

Isolated, often mournful voices wander through a specter-like fog of synths and reverb, suggesting ghosts and the mysterious tragedies surrounding them.

Track listing 

poison arrow – yeule / your favorite color – lifeformed / possession – pastel ghost / moon in aquarius – pat moon / dreams – mushy / lazy hunter – boy friend / little ghost – metal mother / ambur – demen / island of doom – agnes obel / flying dream – tamaryn w. oneohtrix point never / visiting night eyes – samantha glass / call me – gigi masin / dance ghost – helado negro / master of none (beach house cover) – toro y moi / ghost dance – be forest / annie’s box (karin dreijjer version) – the knife w. planningtorock & mt. sims / crystalfilm – little dragon / patterns – suse millemann / no matter what – ioanna gika / into the light (siouxsie and the banshees cover) – darkswoon / vernal limb – camp counselors / vulnerable now – low city rain

Further listening

Sequencing this one was difficult for some reason. Here’s some songs I would include in different iterations of this idea:

  • Tamaryn – “You’re Adored” (2019)
  • Black Marble – “A Different Arrangement” (2012), “It’s Conditional” (2016)
  • Carla Dal Forno – “Clusters” (2018)
  • Grimes’ entire Halfaxa album (2010)
  • Cuushe – “Lost My Way” (2013)
  • Neon Cloud – “22” (2011)
  • Pastel Ghost – “Clouds”, “Prism” (2015); “Underwater” (2018)
  • Lene Lovich – “Ghost Story” (2005)
Deep Cuts

The Creatures – “Another Planet” (Anima Animus, 1999)


I thought it was time for a new Siouxsie b-day post since I kept reblogging the old one.

Anima Animus was a ‘black sheep’ album for The Creatures and Siouxsie in general. The decision to follow the British club scene brought us the closest thing to Siouxsie ‘going electro’. In addition, it features her voice in it’s best incarnation since it’s noticeable deepening in the 90’s. Her preference for surreal poetry stuck, but she took extra amusement in bringing the chaos. She always had a way with playful b-horror after all; she does it with such confidence and energy that I wish she played a villain in a movie. Mixed with Budgie’s mechanized rhythms, this made heavy-handed 90s sounds like futurepop much more convincing with their edgy thrill-rides.

Forming the album’s whirlwind finale with the villainous epic that was “Experimenting Angel”, “Another Planet” is the most striking moment by far. Siouxsie’s rage turns to luxury, opting to bask in space’s wonders rather than well, destroy things with it’s black holes. With the metallic, slow-drifting fusion of guitar and keyboard, the chill-out tease matches the purr in her voice. The sounds mutate and zoom further beyond as it goes. If the first verse is a sleepy glance at space, the clashing drums and vocals at the end IS space; it’s full expanse. Like it’s nothing, every last sound bursts with the same confidence as Siouxsie. Her lyrics suggest strange beasts and mutations:

They’re coming out the walls / they’re seeping in
Three odd eyed tentacles / Speak in forked tongues
Sprouting all over me / And blossoming
I’m breaking out the walls / I’m coming in

Much more creepy than glamorous, but Siouxsie is thriving in this imagery. She sings like she’s celebrating at the local sci-fi cantina. Something about it is weirdly relaxing. Surprising as it sounds for her, it makes a perfect tribute to sci-fi. This is a song for feeling in-your-element and thanking your inspirations for it.

Interesting to note: On the previous Creatures album and a full decade before, Siouxsie sang an addictive proto-electropop tune about flying to Pluto.
Mix

Thinking Of Christmas Past

🎄Listen on Youtube❄️

Are you up to set the Christmas mood but wanting something a bit different? Here I’ve gathered songs that remind me most of Christmas season without necessarily being about the holiday: icy, magical sounds with plenty of twinkling and moods ranging from jovial and nostalgic to mysterious. As a theoretical ‘stocking’ I include two Christmas covers and three themed originals.

Track listing

camera lucida – robin guthrie / dreamers tied to chairs – ashrae fax / dazzle + il est ne le divin enfant – siouxsie and the banshees / modigliani (lost in your eyes) – book of love / cut down the tree – ice choir / world 5: snow land [kirby’s epic yarn OST] – tomoya tomita / march of the dawn – the mummers / love to stay – altered images / winter wonderland – cocteau twins / nightingales – prefab sprout / espresso – rajie / latitudes – ollano / limpidite – robert viger / la petite fille de la mer – vangelis / red wrapping paper – the creatures / christmas reindeer – the knife / virgin blue-eyed – lovesliescrushing

Photo credit: Christmas With Southern Living, 1984 https://palmandlaser.tumblr.com/post/189715654560/palmandlaser-from-christmas-with-southern-living

List

A Gothic Top 5

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With The Banshees as my biggest gateway into my serious musical interests, I’ve had a fascination for gothic themes for many years now. As picky as I get with the goth rock/darkwave scenes, they generated and influenced several of my all-time favorite albums.

To coincide with this Halloween, I’ve decided to look back on five of my most formative gothic, autumnal and/or ‘spooky’ favorites. This is more about representing than building an exact top-5, so check out this related list and my Halloween mixes if you want more!

Lene Lovich – Shadows And Dust, 2005

Lene Lovich is new wave’s wacky witch of the west. Anyone familiar with her distinctive polka-dotted voice will know this already. Shadows And Dust is the lesser-known piece to the puzzle. Despite coming fifteen years after March, Lene sounds more witchy than ever. She tributes the Wicked One herself with all the right gleeful camp on track 9.

Mixing non-forced cabaret drama with speculative themes, SAD is a goth-pop wonderland. SAD plays like a natural step from where she left off, unfazed by time. It never lacks a new trick to show off, be it wispy synth bells (“Ghost Story”), viking-like backing vocals, a grim synth-string intro (“Remember”) or an elaborate Dracula narrative (“Insect Eater”). To top this off, every song has a bouncy hook to get you nodding along. Altogether, it brings me back to Siouxsie’s Peepshow. With a bold sing-along and mutant arrangement, “Shapeshifter” makes a worthy “Peek-A-Boo” sequel. And this is coming from a fanatic!

Lene sings like she’s stirring a cauldron. Her voice wears a bit on louder sections, but I love her enthusiasm. Her wild-but-warm spirit hasn’t faded a bit, and her deeper, richer tone matches her themes. The sheer thrill she takes in voicing Reinfield on “Insect Eater” is nearly contagious. Sweeter moments like “Remember” show her knack for tender romance isn’t gone either.

Even beyond her ‘prime’, Lene had so much more to offer than “Lucky Number”. SAD is a major reason why; the limited release has me wishing more fans got to hear it.

Grimes – Halfaxa, 2010

In a Simpler Time ™ before dating billionaires and romanticizing climate change with anime, Claire Boucher packed fresh creative instincts into a computer. On oft-ridiculed Halfaxa, she channeled cathedrals and haunted medieval heirlooms from what many critics dismiss as the lowest dregs in music-making: Garageband. Albums like this tell me they’re wrong.

These technical limits and her isolation at the time informed these songs to unique results. Like many albums in this formative time for bedroom e-music, she’s alone with her thoughts here. As expected with a creative musical mind, it’s easy for me to get lost in them.

The songs create unique emotional portraits, both vague and pointed. “Devon”, for one, is a raw, rejected love song all the way, but with other highlights like ”Dream Fortress”, I detect so many different feelings at once. It’s sad nostalgia for that once-beautiful abandoned heirloom one minute and ghostly horror the next.

Halfaxa is a mind, a universe and a huge antique house. It thrives in surrealism and history’s shadows, but as other reviews stated before, you find human feelings inside. Her devotion to Mariah Carey helped; she stated Halfaxa was her attempt to capture the spacious, haunting effects of group church singing. I know well these vocals can be a bit much with the echoes and caterwauls everywhere, but I would argue the cowgirl-punk approach on Art Angels is it’s own acquired taste.

Halfaxa is ethereal wave’s digital-age niece; any fan should try it.

Bauhaus – The Sky’s Gone Out, 1982

Bauhaus’ messiness was the main reason I was a ‘casual fan’ rather than worshipper. With that said, Sky’s Gone Out struck me as a glorious, thrilling mess if anything. Beyond “Exquisite Corpse”, the songs don’t lose their footing in shouty jam-outs. They had more ambitious ideas and the experience to pull them off by now. They were maturing from the faux-edgy rambling that filled their debut.

Sky’s Gone Out stands out further as the one Bauhaus album where they could pull a true ‘scare’ on me. For all the hammy drama leftover from Mask, this album allows itself to build a stronger atmosphere, one that belongs in bizarre nightmares out of an arthouse film. Sky’s Gone Out has it’s own black-and-white, surrealist world like the cover art.

Complete with piano and sax from a haunted house, “Spirit” isn’t punk as much as a wild, dancing chorus of ghosts. The “Three Shadows” trio is a journey in itself, going from quiet goth-tar disturbance to an underworld’s fairground waltz.

Despite everything, the album ends on a quiet, solemn note with “All We Ever Wanted”. It’s the gentlest song to the Bauhaus name. Peter’s fittingly spectral highs toward the end whirled around my head for years. Fun as songs like “Spirit” and “Bela Lugosi” get, it makes me wish Peter Murphy showed this vulnerable side more often.

Cocteau Twins – Head Over Heels, 1983

Head Over Heels takes place in the mountains and towering caves of your mind. As the first ’normal’ Cocteau album, this invented ethereal wave as we know it and pioneered the 4AD sound. I’d argue shoegaze’s whole color-wash approach began around here too.

HOH is a thrilling display for Cocteau’s leftover goth roots in the more elemental context that would become their trademark. Liz Fraser’s voice settles a bit, sounding freer than ever as she belts, quivers and hums with equal strength. Her usual non-lyrics add to the enigma but her tone posesses incredible warmth and nobility here. The boldness in her delivery is surprising knowing her famous self-deprecation.

The spacious fuzz-guitar draws curiosity but insists to lurk in shadows. It’s a long, long gaze into said caves, where water drips quietly and huge sun rays peer inside. This is the moody, bewitching edge of nature in it’s full glory. It can be “Sugar Hiccup”’s candyland dream sequence or an intimidating divine beast emerging from it’s lair. What never fails to cast a spell on me is “Tinderbox Of A Heart”, a tie with “Fifty Fifty Clown” for my favorite CT song. it works like a travelogue for HOH’s world, where this mountain-cave turns out huge from the outside and all you can do is glare in awe.

Siouxsie And The Banshees – Peepshow, 1988

As the 33 1/3 book stresses, Peepshow emphasized SATB’s art-film interests. At this point, they were more a ‘goth pop’ group. Far from Juju’s raw impact, then, but resuming the moody elegance that graced Dreamhouse and Tinderbox. For each goth-tar you have ”Carousel”’s haunted circus organ, “Rhapsody”s chilly strings and “Peek-A-Boo”‘s reversed tango.

Martin McCarrick is the one who took the Banshees (further) beyond rock. Adding cello, accordion and other new flavors, he’s one of their most unique members. The result is the band’s last goth album, being a few years before “Kiss Them For Me”. As if predicting this change, they went all-out with it. Peepshow has all the thrill, variety and surrealism to remind you why this band was so vital to the goth scene. Q gave this apt summary: ‘Peepshow takes place in some distorted fairground of the mind where weird and wonderful shapes loom’. In a parallel to Goldfrapp’s debut made in a cottage, they recorded these songs in a 17th century mansion. The kind of album that puts Hot Topic rock to shame.

Siouxsie sounds like the suave and secretive ringleader in a freakshow. Songs like “Scarecrow” and “Rhapsody” showcase her refining flair for drama. As a whole, Peepshow finds this band at a special middle ground. Yet to hit the Top 40 with “Kiss Them For Me” but on their way, with their middle era’s adventurous spirits intact.

Mix

HALLOWEEN MIX II: Scary But Fun

scary but fun edition

🎃 8Tracks

🌑 Youtube

A sequel to my first Halloween mix from four (!) years ago. Expect urgent and thrilling vocals from new wave/goth icons and a cross of grim, sinister atmosphere with pulpy fun.

Track list

love bites + devil in my life – GRACE JONES / el diablo anda suelto – ALASKA Y DINARAMA / face to face [batman returns soundtrack] + the double life – SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES / out on my own – ROMEO VOID / heads will roll + isis – YEAH YEAH YEAHS / whirlpool – DEAD OR ALIVE / spirit – BAUHAUS / obsolete – TOYAH / nosferatu – MIRO MIROE / vampires – BAT FOR LASHES / to get over heartbreak – THE BEDROOM WITCH / astrid – THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS / love crime – SIOUXSIE

Songs that got me into music

Siouxsie And The Banshees – “Into The Light” (Juju, 1981)

‘A racket that mixed up Blondie with Siouxsie And The Banshees’; said one critic on Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Who were the Banshees?, I thought eight (!) years ago. Soon I found “Into The Light” on my sister’s iTunes by fluke and it blew my mind within seconds. I knew nothing about the new wave scene and the endless creativity within yet, so you could imagine my awe.

The song resembled a campfire with Siouxsie as the enigmatic storyteller. The guitar sizzled over Budgie’s drums like wood covered in flames. With this band, guitar worked more as the portal to their surreal worlds than a tool for beefy riffs. John McGeoch’s ‘Gizmo’ effect pedal played a big part in this. “Into The Light” has a raw instinct for sure, but they didn’t look past melody; it’s an agitated beast. Likewise, something vulnerable lies in Siouxsie’s defiant voice. Her lyrics insist on rhymes with ‘light’:

Our hearts entwine / a new horizon

Remember when / bleached into white

Your time again / kept out of sight

Standing in the light

I never wanted to be right

Now I’m attracted by the light

And blinded by the sight

What is this light? ‘I never wanted to be right’; it’s confessing something, it sounds defeated. Genius suggests a light-before-death scene, fitting the cosmic images though not confirmed. Either way, I couldn’t ask for a stronger delivery.

Key to Juju’s impact was how it found Siouxsie between her punk roots and later refinement. She reached a raw desperation (especially live) that wasn’t quite the same with earlier and later periods. As it took one jam-based take to record with improvised lyrics, this song came from pure impulse. It told me that spontaneous bursts can birth the best inspiration.

Go here for my Siouxsie gateway playlist if you’re unfamiliar.