Uncut (January '05)

All the Banshees' B-sides - 53 of them - collected on four CDs (**** four stars)

Having finally split up two years ago after a difficult comeback tour, The Banshees left a formidable body of work. Through their B-sides, Downside Up charts an alternative history of one of Britain's most cherished groups. From the start they proved to be a far more dynamic proposition than their post-punk and goth peers and, especially during their early 80's heyday, always relished the chance to try something new for a B-side.

Their first, "Voices", the haunting flip to 1978's debut single "Hong Kong Garden", sets an impressive standard, swiftly followed by a thrash through "20th Century Boy". The golden period, when drummer Budgie and ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch joined founders Siouxsie and ever-supple bassist Steve Severin, produced the tribal "Congo Conga" and the spectral "Cannibal Roses". Moonlighting from The Cure, and a good friend of Severin's, Robert Smith's brief stint as a Banshee resulted in enjoyably psychedelic studio doodles like "There's a Planet in My Kitchen".

Elsewhere, there are covers of "All Tomorrow's Parties" and Ben E. King's "Supernatural Thing", cut-up pop like "Catwalk", and, for the first time on CD, 1984's "The Thorn" EP for which The Banshees re-recorded B-sides "Voices" and "Red Over White" with a string quartet. An exhaustive and fascinating collection from an astonishing group.

Piers Martin

Contributed by Neil Murray.

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