Horror, epic and early cinema in Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Voyeuristic Peepshow

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Drawing on research to be published in a forthcoming 33⅓ Series book, this paper considers some of the cinematic influence imbued in post-punk band Siouxsie and the Banshees’ ninth studio album Peepshow. Throughout the record, explicit references to films including Nicholas Roeg’s Eureka (1983) and Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse (1981) are made, as well as lyrical references and musical allusions to technical aspects of film including shadows, mise en scéne and the staging of protagonists. Peepshow’s unusual orchestration, song arrangements, multi-intertextual and large scale form borrows heavily from film music, specifically works by Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, Nino Rota and James Bernard.

This paper first situates opening track and lead single ‘Peek-A-Boo’ in the context of early cinema, whilst simultaneously considering its musical construction and conceptual basis as exemplifying Mulvey’s ‘male gaze’. Drawing on 17th Century British folklore, album track ‘Rawhead and Bloodybones’ features multiple, technologically constructed locations for Sioux’s childlike lead protagonist, as well as classic horror film music tropes. Finally, Peepshow’s lengthy, widescreen encore of ‘Last Beat Of My Heart’ and ‘Rhapsody’ feature musical, lyrical and conceptual references evoking historical wartime epic film genre.

Samantha Bennett is Associate Professor in Music at the Australian National University where she specialises in popular music, music technology and sound recording. She is published in Popular Music, Popular Music and Society and The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality. In 2014 she gave the biannual American Musicological Society lecture at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, where she also held a 2015 research fellowship. Her first book, Modern Records, Maverick Methods, is forthcoming from University of Michigan Press’ Tracking Pop series. She is currently writing a book for Bloomsbury Academic’s 33⅓ Series.

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