Siouxsie and the Banshees were easily among the most creative and flexible "alternative" acts to come out of Britain in the late 70s. Despite being strapped with the rather prosaic label of being "Goth," the band repeatedly reinvented their sound and style. After all, what other bands created such disparate sounding albums as Kaleidoscope, Juju and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse in quick succession without compromising an inch of their artistic integrity? While their career was not without its highs and lows, the spirit of the band remained solid throughout, and Tinderbox showcases what is probably the band at its tightest and most invigorated.
While Hyaena suffered from overproduction and unevenness, and Kiss in the Dreamhouse had a tendency to be a little too varied, Tinderbox has the band just getting down and playing. John Valentine Carruthers (side note: why were nearly all of their guitarists named John/Jon?) carries on that spidery, ethereal style typical of his predecessors, with just enough of a jagged roughness to imbue the music with that Banshees edge. Budgie's drumwork is top-notch, and the rhythm section holds a consistent, powerful base for the melodies and strains dancing within the music. And Siouxsie - her voice much improved from the occasional off-key ramblings early in the band's career - carries on throughout the songs with appropriate vivacity and/or urgency.
There really isn't a weak moment here. "Candyman" gets the album off to an energetic start, before moving on into the softer and more atmospheric "The Sweetest Chill." "This Unrest" creeps in mysteriously, but then turns up the volume and rocks a lot harder (nice, harsh guitar tones in there too). "Party's Fall" is upbeat, but very tight throughout, and "Cities in Dust" stands on its own as one of the band's best known singles (deservedly so). The closer - "Lands End" - is pretty low-key by comparison, but Budgie's touch on the drums is particularly fine here, keeping the music interesting until the end. This specific release also includes the b-sides from the "Candyman" and "Cities in Dust" singles at the end, which are a nice addition as well (even if they do change the context of the album somewhat).
All in all, Tinderbox is a vital part of the Banshees career (along with Juju and Kaleidoscope, which are also true classics). Considering the strength of this release, it's somewhat surprising how short-lived this incarnation of the band was. . . .within little over a year of its release, the final line-up of the band was taking over the reins. In some ways this marks the last stage of an era, as Peepshow begins the departure from the headier days of the band. But, if recent rumors indeed prove true, perhaps the final chapter hasn't been written quite yet.