Tinderbox (Siouxsie and the Banshees album)

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Siouxsie & the Banshees-Tinderbox.jpg
Studio album by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Released 21 April 1986
Recorded 1985
Genre Alternative rock
Length 38:21
Producer Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie and the Banshees chronology
Through the Looking Glass
(1987)Through the Looking Glass1987
Singles from Tinderbox
  1. "Cities in Dust"
    Released: 18 October 1985
  2. "Candyman"
    Released: 28 February 1986
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Pop Matters very favourable[2]
The Quietus very favourable[3]
Spin very favourable[4]

Tinderbox is the seventh studio album by English alternative rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees, released in 1986. It was the first full-length effort recorded with new guitarist John Valentine Carruthers; Carruthers had previously only added a few parts on 1984's The Thorn EP. The first recording sessions for this album took place at Hansa Tonstudio by the Berlin Wall in May 1985.

Two songs were released as singles between late 1985 and early 1986, "Cities in Dust" and "Candyman". Tinderbox peaked at No. 13 in the UK Albums Chart,[5] and at No. 88 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in the week of 5 July.[6] Tinderbox is retrospectively considered a classic by both critics and musicians.

The album was reissued in a remastered and expanded edition in 2009.

Music and content[edit]

The album was written to be presented live on stage in full like Juju was in 1981 on its subsequent tour. After rehearsing the songs for months, the band went abroad in Berlin to record the new material. They had previously recorded in Germany in Bavaria for The Thorn ep. Vocal parts were done later in the year, a couple of months after the release of the lead single "Cities in Dust".

At the beginning of the song "92°", there is a sample from the film It Came from Outer Space (1953) with the line: "Did you know, Putnam, that more murders are committed at 92 Fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once. Lower temperatures, people are easygoing. Over 92, it's too hot to move. But just 92, people get irritable".[7]

Cover art[edit]

On 8 July 1927, a tornado near the town of Jasper, Minnesota, was photographed by Lucille Handberg.[8] Her photograph has become a classic image,[9] and was used on the album's cover. The same photograph was edited and used for Miles Davis' Bitches Brew (1970) and Deep Purple's Stormbringer (1974).


Tinderbox was released in April 1986. A remastered cd was issued in 2009 with bonus tracks including an unreleased version of 1987's "Song from the Edge of the World" non-album single, and an unreleased song with lyrics by Steven Severin called "Starcrossed", recorded in May 1985. The B-sides of "Cities in Dust" and "Candyman", initially added as bonus tracks on the 1986 CD, were then included in the Downside Up B-sides box set.

Critical reception and influence[edit]

The album was well received by critics. Sounds praised the album on its release. Kevin Murphy wrote, "Tinderbox romps and swoons with all the majesty of Dreamhouse", and added, "it's a refreshing slant on the Banshees' disturbing perspective and restores their vivid shades to pop's pale palette."[10] Jon Savage also hailed the record in Spin magazine: "Its scope, ease, and assurance make it a good collection for the Banshees to relaunch themselves into the international market this spring. Carruthers fits in to the point that you wouldn't know there was a change, and Budgie's drumming is superb. Apart from the singles "Cities in Dust" and "Candyman" (which perpetuates the Banshees' sinister view of childhood), the sparks fly on the crystal clear "Cannons" and the unsettling "Parties Fall".[4]

AllMusic reviewer David Cleary retrospectively rated the record 4.5 out of 5 stars, applauding the band for "rocking drumming, drivingly aggressive yet fully textured guitar playing, and masterful, gutsy singing. The songs here are intense [...] in fact, there's a certain satisfying feel to the musically uniform wall of sound here. [...] there are [...] plenty of subtle, effective production touches to be found throughout."[1] The Quietus also praised the album and said: "By removing the focus from the guitar, Siouxsie & The Banshees forged a sound that was totally their own. Rhythmic and percussive, the rock idiom of old was eschewed in favour of a sound that was wholly their own. "Cities In Dust", the first taster from Tinderbox, found the band moving into more electronic climes as Severin's recently purchased DX-7 synth discovered new territories to explore."[3] PopMatters listed it among their "12 Essential Alternative Rock Albums from the 1980s", saying it was a "bold and enchanting album".[2] In 2011, Brett Anderson, the lead singer of Suede, included Tinderbox on a list of albums that he called "current fascinations".[11]

Tinderbox would be later hailed by Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air. He selected Tinderbox for his "5 albums forever" list, saying, "They played so well together; I saw them in concert and I never forgot that moment".[12] Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle rated it as his all-time favourite album[13] Howerdel described it as "one of the spookiest records I've ever heard. Some of the songs on there have such a dense atmosphere. Sometimes when I'm stuck, I'll listen to that. It's like sometimes when you have no inspiration and you go out and look at the moon, that's kind of what that record is for me".[14] Jenny Lee Lindberg of Warpaint cited the band among her influences, as well as the song "Umbrella", initially included in the track listing of the 1986 CD version. She said: "This is a song that my husband and I bonded over – we’d definitely heard it individually before, but one day we were just playing the album and that song stopped us in our tracks… played it on repeat for the whole night. I understand why some people can hear a little Siouxsie in what we do."[15]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks by Siouxsie and the Banshees. All lyrics written by Siouxsie Sioux, except where noted.