Siouxsie & the Banshees – Tinderbox Cassette 1986

The only thing wrong with this album as far as I’m concerned is that it’s not long enough. There aren’t really too many albums you can say that about. Of course, whether four tracks per side really is long enough for an album depends on the length of the songs and whether or not you like them, but I’d say this is definitely a bit light on quantity given that it was released and sold as a full LP.

This is the Tinderbox audio cassette tape, by Siouxsie & the Banshees – an original release dating back to 1986. Not at all untypically for a Banshees tape, the product looks the business, with an attractive paper label matching the cover inlay. It’s a perfect candidate, given the strong photographic element of this blog. Saying that, I must get Siouxsie’s  Hyaena tape photographed and posted too (Hyaena is now here), because that’s even more visually striking than this one.

The sound of the Tinderbox cassette is very impressive, with a real chromium dioxide tape formulation making for excellent fidelity. There’s no sign whatsoever of sonic degradation after more than a quarter of a century, and the familiar ‘wax crayon’ whiff of the chrome tape coating is as strong as ever.

The album was released through the Polydor label, and that’s evident on both the tape and the inlay. However, Tinderbox was one of the albums released under Siouxsie’s own Wonderland branding. A Wonderland badge appears on the cassette, and because these Wonderland badge designs were made specific to each individual release, Tinderbox – product code SHEMC3 – has its own unique variant. Completing the ‘label trivia’, there’s a Made in England denotation.

Musically, this is everything you’d expect from Siouxsie and the Banshees. Any guitarist who’s struggling to work out how a flanger/chorus effect should be used within a song (or who thinks they’re a bit naff) should have a listen to this. On this album the guitar work is by John Valentine Carruthers, but with the Banshees it never seemed to matter that much who played the guitar – the sound and style was almost instantly attributable to the band. The parameters for the Banshees’ guitar work seemed to have been set out by John McKay in the late ’70s, but that’s not to take anything away from subsequent guitarists. John Carruthers’ playing on Tinderbox is very cool – archetypal Banshees – and a lot of it is more difficult than it sounds. Drummer Budgie and bassist Steven Severin are ever present and make their inimitably attention-grabbing contributions. And Siouxsie is at her best vocally too. To describe this as mere ‘gothic rock’ doesn’t do it justice.

Tinderbox was recorded right at the very peak of the goth craze, but even so, it remains a Siouxsie and the Banshees album – and definitely not a generic goth album. The 1985 single Cities in Dust and the early ’86 follow-up Candyman (both top 40 hits) are present among the eight included songs. The Banshees’ knack of performing ‘underground’ music with masses of street cred, taking it to the public with an injection of commercial appeal, and giving the pop charts something to be proud of, was demonstrably still potent. As I say, the only thing the album lacks is a bit of listening time. It is too short. But I would be saying that if the content it does have wasn’t excellent and highly listenable.