Release Date: Apr 26, 2011
Record label: Future Noise
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Poly Styrene was a brace-faced kid in 1977 when she shrieked, "Oh, bondage: up yours!" on X-Ray Spex's debut single, but her crackling power made her a punk-rock legend. This April, Styrene died of cancer after an intermittent post-Spex career. She left behind this life-force of a new album (recorded before learning she had the disease), full of sharp, buoyant reggae and synth-rock that's true to her personal-is-political vision.
For the most part, female artists of the punk and post-punk generation have better retained their credibility than their male counterparts. Although not every snarly young man has grown up to pimp condiments a la Johnny Rotten, the small successes—think Paul Simonon and Mick Jones from the Clash backing cartoon band Gorillaz—have been contributive in their output rather than visionary. Much like former Slits member Viv Albertine and her Flesh EP from last year, Poly Styrene, the former front-teen of X-Ray Spex, has gone and done the unthinkable.
As her backing band drives home an uptempo R&B beat -- or at least the new wave era’s idea of an R&B beat -- punk veteran Poly Styrene sings her manifesto, “Well you can call me a bitch, or a bit of a witch/But I would say I’m just a little bit kitsch. ” Infectious and bouncy as anything her old punk band X-Ray Spex ever played in front of a pogoing crowd, “Kitsch” is just one of the many highlights on Styrene’s 2011 return, Generation Indigo, an album that embraces the future with a healthy dose of skepticism. The synth pop single “Virtual Boyfriend” is a tongue-in-cheek love song for the social networking generation, while the rock-disco rave-up “I Luv Ur Sneakers” is the Spex’s “Obsessed with You” all grown up yet still young at heart.
Marian Joan Elliott-Said, [a]Poly Styrene[/a] to you, is one of punk’s great cult icons. Her band [a]X-Ray Spex[/a] was one of the most inventive and fun of the era. Her first record in aeons, [b]‘Generation Indigo’[/b] provides ample proof of both aforementioned claims.Now in her mid-fifties, she’s made a record both defiant and full of grace and maturity.
Given the tragic and untimely death of The Slits’ Ari Up in 2010 and the also tragic selling of butter by John Lydon in 2008, Poly Styrene in some ways cuts a lonely figure as UK first-wave punk legend (though of course we couldn’t overlook the indomitable Siouxsie Sioux). Generation Indigo reveals more affinities with Ari than we have seen in Styrene’s previous work — in particular, the dub reggae influences (which, though they’ve obviously been part of punk’s dynamic since its inception, have never been much in evidence in her music). And, in the current welter of apolitical sounds, it’s refreshing to see Styrene’s head-on take on political issues, from leather (“I Luv Ur Sneakers”) to environmental exploitation (“White Gold”), warmongering (“Code Pink Dub”) to racism (“Colour Blind”), and poverty to political violence (“No Rockefeller”).
A pop dance album par excellence bristling with positivity, tunes and ideas. John Doran 2011 While even a casual glance at any current interviews with the former X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene will reveal that she is currently fighting against cancer, it should be said right from the start that this album would be regarded as an unqualified success regardless of her health. If anything it sounds like she pushed herself even harder than usual, and is only concentrating on getting better now that she has this album out of the way.