Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reasons why the saxophone is not the work of the devil No 3

Switch by Siouxsie and the Banshees

In different places into wrong categories / Familiar problems cross the wires

Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals recently proclaimed somewhere that the saxophone would not appear on their next album; to all intents and purposes this is cool, after all the saxophone is associated largely with the cheesy blandness of airport lounges, elevator shuffles and that horrid excuse for improvisation called 'jazz' (bebop bedobop bedeedeoolbop in the best Howard Moon impression) as well as the worst excesses of the 80s like the godawful Baker Street.  Yet the saxophone can appear in some strange contexts.  Like, for instance, who would ever dream that Siouxsie and the Banshees would ever allow a saxophone even ten foot near them?  The Banshees are associated for me with gothic spikiness, spitting in the face of established taste and grubby glamour, into which the bright shiny saxophone with its myriad buttons and fussy detailing would NEVER figure.  Yet there, in their debut The Scream (1978), is definitely the sound of the sax.  It would seem to be the fault of guitarist John McKay.   It is exhilarating the juxtaposition between the two; the sax here is not optimistic, shiny nor bland, it is a dread beast filled with the anxiety and despair for (of) the age, transplanted into a keening riff that rattles the nerves and silences the sneer of punk.  Such a doomy (mis) use of an instrument serves well the dark lyrics and dramatic vocal stylings of Siouxsie.  

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