The Scream (album)

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The Scream
Studio album by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Released 13 November 1978
Recorded 1978 at RAK Studios, London, England
Genre Post-punk
Length 39:04
Label Polydor
Producer Siouxsie and the Banshees, Steve Lillywhite
Siouxsie and the Banshees chronology
The Scream
Join Hands

The Scream is the debut studio album by English post-punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Recorded in one week and mixed in three during August 1978, it was released on 13 November 1978 by record label Polydor.

Before the album's release, the band had developed a strong reputation as a live act, and had achieved a Top 10 UK single with "Hong Kong Garden" (which did not appear on the original album); upon release The Scream became an almost instant critical and commercial success, peaking at number 12 in the UK Albums Chart, and placing the group amongst the pioneers of post-punk. The album is now regarded as a landmark of post-punk.


In late 1977 and early 1978, the band received major press coverage but they didn't manage to get a recording deal. A fan undertook a graffiti campaign in London, spraying the walls of the major record companies with the words "Sign the Banshees: do it now".[1] Polydor finally signed them in June.[2]

John McKay had become their guitarist in July 1977; music historian Clinton Heylin argues that the recruitment of McKay along with the formation of Magazine and PiL between August 1977 and May 1978 marks the "true starting-point for English post-punk".[3]


The band in 1978, at the time of the recording: John McKay, Kenny Morris, Siouxsie and Steven Severin

The Scream was recorded in one week during August 1978, and mixed in three weeks.[4] The band was in the studio while their debut single "Hong Kong Garden" was released, reaching number seven in the UK Singles Chart.[5][6]

Most of the songs were co-written with McKay. Only "Carcass" dates from the band's time with Peter Fenton, their guitarist from January to July 1977.[7] Siouxsie wanted the Banshees' music to be "cinematic"; Bernard Herrmann's score to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho inspired the music of "Suburban Relapse", where the guitars echo the knife-screeching violins of the famous shower scene.[8]


The Scream was released on 13 November 1978. It was an almost instant commercial success, peaking at number 12 on the UK Albums Chart.[9]

The Scream was reissued in the UK on 27 October 2005 (28 October in the USA) as part of Universal's Deluxe Edition series. The new edition featured a remastered version of the album on the first disc, while the second disc contained demo and live tracks together with the singles from that period. A single-disc edition of the reissue was released in 2006 with a noticeable digital distortion; a flawless remastered version was issued in its place in 2007.

Critical Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone very favourable[11]
Sounds 5/5 stars[12]
ZigZag very favourable[4]

Upon its release, The Scream received almost unanimously positive reviews. Critics in the British and American press generally agreed that the album was a landmark of its time and that the band's willingness to experiment made it a challenging listen.

The Scream was hailed as "the best debut album of the year" by Sounds.[13] Critic Peter Silverton gave the album 5 stars out of 5.[12] The other reviews were also very positive. Melody Maker described the sound as "strong, abrasive, visceral and constantly inventive, with a thrust that makes the spaces equal partners to the notes", with the critic comparing the album's textures to that of Wire and Pere Ubu.[14] ZigZag qualified it as a "magnificent record", with reviewer Kris Needs writing: "I can't think of another group who could have made an LP so uncompromising, powerful and disturbing, yet so captivating and enjoyable [...] It is certainly a special classic to join milestones like [David Bowie's] Diamond Dogs, Roxy [Music]'s first and [Lou Reed's] Berlin. This is music of such strength and vision that you just can't not be moved by the time they swing into the final climactic passage of 'Switch', the closing track." Needs qualified the sound as "huge, sometimes awe-inspiring" and commenting that drummer Morris created "one of the best drum sounds I've ever heard – the deep echo and floor-shuddering mix accentuating his muted Glitter Band stomp".[4]

Several journalists from NME also praised the record. Nick Kent first stated that the band sounded "like some unique hybrid of The Velvet Underground mated with much of the ingenuity of Tago Mago-era Can." He then focused his attention to the opening track and said: "'Pure' takes the sound to its ultimate juncture, leaving spaces that say as much as the notes being played. Certainly, the traditional three-piece sound has never been used in a more unorthodox fashion with such stunning results."[15] In December 1978, another critic from NME, Paul Morley, described the music on The Scream as "unlike anything in rock":

It is not, as some would say, chaotic – it is controlled. Each instrument operates within its own space, its own time, as if mocking the lines of other instruments. Known rock is inverted, leaving just traces of mimickry of rock's cliches – satire that often bursts with glorious justification into shaking celebration (as on "Helter Skelter"). It is easy to gain attention by doing something which is crudely obviously out of the ordinary, but the Banshees have avoided such futile superficialities: it is innovation, not revolution, not a destruction but new building. It has grown out of rock – Velvets, Station to Station, Bolan. And Siouxsie's staggering voice is dropped, clipped, snapped prominently above this audacious musical drama, emphasizing the dark colours and empty, naked moods.[16]

Writer Don Watson later pictured it in the NME as "something that whipped the past into a great whirlpool of noise, pulling the future down."[17]

Kurt Loder gave a very favourable review in Rolling Stone, remarking that The Scream was a "striking debut album"; its "sound, stark though fully realized (thanks partly to a most simpatico co-producer, Steve Lillywhite), is lent added intellectual dimension by a series of disturbingly ambiguous lyrical images".[11]

One year later, Record Mirror's Ronnie Gurr wrote about the album: "The Scream, a masterpiece that, for six months, I failed to recognise as such, was a harrowing listening experience."[18]


Since its release, The Scream has received a number of accolades from the music press. Uncut magazine placed it at number 43 in their list of the 100 greatest debut albums.[19] It was featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[20]

The Scream placed the group among the pioneers of post-punk, as peer Robert Smith of The Cure contended:

"When The Scream came out, I remember it was much slower than everybody thought. It was like the forerunner of the Joy Division sound. It was just big-sounding."[21]

The Scream had a strong impact on other musicians. Massive Attack covered and sampled "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" on their song "Superpredators (Metal Postcard)" in 1997 for the soundtrack to the movie The Jackal.[22] Morrissey had "Mirage" played during intermission before all concerts of his 1991's Kill Uncle tour.[23] Morrissey's main composer, Boz Boorer, also rated The Scream highly, ranking it second in his "Top Five Desert Island Album Selection".[24] Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson told Melody Maker that she has a special liking for this record.[25] The Scream was also hailed by the singer of Suede, Brett Anderson.[26] Faith No More covered "Switch" in concert[27] and cited this first Siouxsie and the Banshees' album as one of their influences.[28]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Pure"     Siouxsie Sioux, Steven Severin, John McKay, Kenny Morris 1:50
2. "Jigsaw Feeling"   Severin Severin, McKay 4:39
3. "Overground"   Severin Severin, McKay 3:50
4. "Carcass"     Sioux, Severin, Peter Fenton 3:49
5. "Helter Skelter"   John Lennon, Paul McCartney Lennon, McCartney 3:46
Side B
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
6. "Mirage"   Severin Severin, McKay 2:50
7. "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)"   Sioux Sioux, McKay 4:14
8. "Nicotine Stain"   Sioux Sioux, Severin 2:58
9. "Suburban Relapse"   Sioux Sioux, McKay 4:12
10. "Switch"   Sioux Sioux, McKay 6:49


Siouxsie and the Banshees


  1. ^ Mark Paytress (2003). Siouxsie and the Banshees: The Authorised Biography. Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 1860743757. 
  2. ^ Heylin 2006, p. 461.
  3. ^ Heylin 2006, p. 460.
  4. ^ a b c Needs, Kris (November 1978). "Siouxsie and the Banshees: The Scream". ZigZag. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Clinton Heylin (2006). Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge. Penguin Books. p. 440. ISBN 0-14-102431-3. 
  6. ^ "1978 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 16th September 1978". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Heylin 2006, p. 132.
  8. ^ "Episode 3". The Movie That Changed My Life. Episode 3. 31 July 2009. BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Siouxsie & the Banshees [uk charts]". Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Ned Raggett. "The Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees". AllMusic. AllRovi. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Kurt Loder (4 October 1979). "The Scream – review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Pete Silverton (21 October 1978). "The Scream – review". Sounds. 
  13. ^ Silverton, Pete (25 November 1978). "The Most Elitist Band in the World". Sounds. 
  14. ^ Ian Birch (21 October 1978). "Scream and Scream Again". Melody Maker. 
  15. ^ Nick Kent (26 August 1978). "Bansheed! What's in an Image?". NME. 
  16. ^ Paul Morley (23 December 1978). "Siouxsie and the Banshees". NME. 
  17. ^ Don Watson (22 February 1986). "The Howling". NME. 
  18. ^ Ronnie Gurr (1 September 1979). "Join Hands – review". Record Mirror. 
  19. ^ "100 Greatest Debut Albums". Uncut. August 2006. 
  20. ^ Robert Dimery (2005). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Cassell Illustrated. 
  21. ^ Steve Sutherland (1 October 1983). "Disturbing Old Ghosts". Melody Maker: 37. 
  22. ^ " – Massive Attack Discography – Tune Info + Lyrics – superpredators". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  23. ^ "Morrissey Under the Influence". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  24. ^ "Q & A Pt 4". 21 November 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  25. ^ Dave Simpson (28 March 1998). "Rebellious Jukebox". Melody Maker. 
  26. ^ "Some Current Fascinations". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  27. ^ "Faith No More - Switch - Melbourne 2010". youtube. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  28. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (4 November 2014). "Interview: Faith No More Give Update from the Studio". Revpmver. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  • Heylin, Clinton (2006). Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-102431-3. 
  • Paytress, Mark (2003). Siouxsie and the Banshees: The Authorised Biography. Sanctuary Publishing. ISBN 1860743757.