Siouxsie and the Banshees

Although Siouxsie and the Banshees have recorded a gaggle of great songs in their 19-year, 11-album career, they have yet to turn out that one-for-the-ages pop classic—their very own "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The Rapture offers a few contenders (like the jangly "O Baby," the first single), but don't expect to be swept away by a wave of catchy jingles. Instead, as usual, the band emphasizes oblique, offbeat thrills: "Not Forgotten," a throwback to the primal postpunk punch of the group's early work, finds Siouxsie's detached vibrato hovering over a thunderous wall of rhythm. There are slightly more accessible numbers like "The Lonely One," which could be incidental film music for some twisted playground scene on a merry-go-round, and "Forever," an impressionistic gem that's as lovely as anything the band has recorded. Chances are no one will be humming much of this stuff six months from now, but The Rapture never fails to be engrossing. (Geffen)

Elvis Presley

Yes, issuing a collection of Elvis Presley's love songs at this time of year represents a bit of Valentine's Day venality, but so what? Even the bean counters must have swooned when they heard this 22-song album. The obligatory hits are here, including "Love Me Tender" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight." But other, less familiar tunes, such as "Anything That's Part of You" from 1961, with just a piano, bass, the King's extraordinary voice and the gentle Jordanaires in the background, help make the record an exceptional pleasure. V-Day shoppers be warned: Heart and Soul is not like a box of chocolates because you always know what you're going to get—delicious work from one of America's greatest singers. (RCA)

Hank Williams Jr.

The man who sends the cry "Are you ready for some football?" across the land every Monday night on ABC during the NFL season already owns the unofficial title of national party animal, but it doesn't hurt to warn off rivals. "Garth and Clint and Alan, them boys have got it made.../Now they're tryin' to put me in the shade," Hank Williams Jr. sings about Mssrs. Brooks, Black and Jackson in "I Ain't Going Peacefully." Not to worry. Those gentlemen excel in many areas, but when it comes to boisterous country-rock bluster, Williams has no peer. Oh, maybe one or two, as he acknowledges in "Eyes of Waylon," a tribute to a fellow hell-raiser named Jennings. But this album, from "Hog Wild" (complete with oink-oink filigrees) to that trusty barroom traditional "Wild Thing," should keep Bocephus's rowdy reputation intact and unshaded. (MCG/Curb)

Shirley Horn

Few jazz musicians can tease and shape a melody with the elegance and finesse of Horn the pianist, and few can bring such a relaxed conversational tone to songs as Horn the singer. While I Love You, Paris lacks the cohesiveness of her exemplary 1992 outing, Here's to Life, there's plenty of cause for enthusiasm here. Consider a quite wily interpretation of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?"—unsentimental, matter-of-fact and rimmed with fine vocalese. Horn's range has never been enormous, but she makes the most of every note within reach, particularly on "All Through the Night." And when she does a ballad, for instance, "It's Easy to Remember" or the haunting "He Was Too Good to Me," she manages to be haunting, heartbreaking and self-revealing without being self-indulgent. (Verve)

Paul Kelly

Widely considered Down Under's best songwriter, Paul Kelly, who used to front Paul Kelly and the Messengers before going solo in 1991, had difficulty catching the same high-profile wave that brought us mega-Aussie acts like INXS and Midnight Oil in the late '80s. But now he has at last truly arrived on our shores.

Kelly has a distinct talent for telling stories through piercing lyrics and contagious folk-based melodies. On Wanted Man he has gracefully woven blues, jazz and power-pop into a lush tapestry of songs. Now if only he can find the audience he deserves. On "Maybe this Time for Sure," a paean to optimism, Kelly sings, "Maybe this time for sure/Things are gonna work out different/Not the way they did before." Let's hope so. (Vanguard)

>Siouxsie Sioux

A GOTHIC ROMANCE

IN 1976, WHEN SIOUXSIE AND THE BANshees made their debut in London's 100 Club Punk Festival, the band's one-tune set—a spooky recitation of "The Lord's Prayer" that lasted longer than most sermons—left even the most jaded punkers in the audience scratching their mohawks. So did the group's name. "We had seen a [1970] Vincent Price film called Cry of the Banshee," says Siouxsie Sioux (née Susan Dallion), now 37, "and we just liked the word 'banshee.' I thought it was a great word." As for the unusual spelling of her own moniker, "I was always on the Indians' side in westerns. I thought the cowboys were extremely suspicious, even without knowing the historical genocide that went on."

By the time punk's first wave had washed out in the early '80s, Siouxsie and her Banshees had established themselves as classic Goth-rockers who actually looked and sounded like something out of Cry of the Banshee. Their latest Gothicisms sprang from songwriting sessions at the dining room table in Siouxsie's chateau outside of Toulouse, France, where the former Londoner has lived for nearly three years with her husband of four years, Budgie, the Banshees' drummer. "Budgie joined the band in 1979," she says, "but it was a few years before we started to notice each other." They've since perfected a no-cuddling-on-the-clock strategy for working together. "When we're working, we tend to become strangers," Siouxsie explains. "And when it's over, we kind of notice each other again."

  • Contributors:
  • Jeremy Helligar,
  • Mark Lasswell,
  • Joanne Kaufman,
  • Peter Castro.