Behind The Lens: Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Cities In Dust

Introducing fans and critics to their now iconic seventh studio album, Tinderbox, is the dance-infused goth pop of their first single “Cities in Dust”. Although its delectable layering of chiming piano notes, eccentric guitar riffs and a buzzing rhythm makes this 1985 track danceable, its lyricism adds an entirely different dimension.

“Cities in Dust” is a brave reflection of the volcanic eruption in AD 79 which occurred around the region of Campania, Italy, and famously destroyed the city of Pompeii. Placing herself and the listener within the scenario, she sings “We found you hiding, we found you lying / Choking on the dirt and sand / Your former glories, and all the stories / Dragged and washed with eager hands.” Whilst Siouxsie has undoubtedly produced a rich imagery of the destruction and emotion of your city (your home) being destroyed in an instant, it is the music video that brings the song to life.

The music video contains a backdrop of bubbling red lava which brings steam over the visuals. Distorted figures and the use of a skeleton puppet depict the physical ruin of humans when in contact with natural disaster – yet their movement suggests a life that lives on through spirit.  Ashes flicker over Siouxsie’s body as she continues to sing, consuming the frame as the fiery conditions continue.

This is then followed by a dream-like edit of Siouxsie’s head and shoulder profile, which its hazy quality suggests is her ghost. She looks over the disaster as she retells the detailed anecdote, using light and shadow to cover up her face. All that we see are her lips, which are coloured with a burning red lipstick. The dominance of this striking colour, that often drains out every other aspect, is a reminder that such historic disaster remains in the memory and stories we tell.