Siglo XX – 1980-1986

Industrial areas in a state of economic decline were always a fertile breeding ground for gloomy music groups. British cities like Manchester and Sheffield produced countless new wave / postpunk bands. Similar developments took place in Belgium. When the mines closed in Genk, the employment figure rose rapidly. Amidst the general mood of depression four guys formed a band: Siglo XX. They are one of my favourite acts from the early 80’s.

The band was named after an anarchist movement during the Spanish civil war. In 1980 Siglo XX independantly released their first 7″ single ‘The Naked and the Death’. Things really got rolling two years later with the maxi-single ‘The Art of War’, still a classic and for instance included on a ‘New Wave Club Class.X’ volume. Later they signed to Antler Records which released a few of their albums and maxi’s.

Their sound resembled Factory bands like Joy Division and Section 25: cold new wave, with dark basses, moody synths and depressive vocals. Siglo XX sounded probably even rawer than their more famous examples, with sometimes punky guitars.

In the mid 80’s a move to Play it Again Sam followed, where three albums came out. The last was ‘Under A Purple Sky’ in 1989. By that time the sound of the band had changed from typical coldwave to a dark rock sound, which appealed to me less. In the last years there have been rumours about a Siglo XX reunion.

Recently EMI has made a compilation available with 17 tracks from the period 1980-1986. This was certainly welcome, because Siglo XX’s music was very hard to find on cd. The two previous cd compilations, Antler Tracks I & II, were released in the late 80’s and are traded for a small fortune on eBay. “1980 – 1986” is sort of a condensed version of these earlier cd’s.

The cd starts with their first single and ends with three live tracks. Absolute highlight is ‘Dreams of pleasure’ (1983)`, which is still overwhelming with its naked sound, rolling drums and throbbing bass. I find it a pity that their classic ‘The art of war’ is only present in a live version.

The selection of tracks is of course a matter of preferences. Of my personal favourites I miss for instance the energetic and stifling ‘Factory’. Also a more extended booklet with a biography and photos would have been welcome, but then again this is meant as a low-budget issue. Hopefully this will result in a wider ecognition of this historical material by Siglo XX.

By the way, I bought this cd for only 5,99 euro at the Belgian mailorder Mediadis. They also stock other cheap Belgian wave reissues on EMI, from the likes of Arbeid Adelt, TC Matic and 2 Belgen.

artist: Siglo XX
label: EMI Music Belgium
details: cd, 17 tracks, 2006