X-Ray Spex

X-Ray Spex

X-Ray Spex

Live @ the Roundhouse London 2008

Year Zero/Future Noise

The X-Ray Spex are back. While some degree of disappointment was inevitable — the committed fan always holds out hope for Lora Logic’s return (and who’s that drummer who looks like he should be in The Exploited?) — it was a chills-up-the-spine thrill to see Poly Styrene return to the stage at the head of her seminal punk combo.

In 1976, a young Marian Joan Elliott was galvanized by early shows from the Sex Pistols and set about to create her own noise. But the newly rechristened Poly Styrene’s plans were far more ambitious than just learning three chords and forming a band. Besides the truly wigged-out nature of the music she was writing for the Spex, Styrene’s lyrics — belying her tender age — were biting personal politic manifestos attacking consumerism, conformity, and body image issues all delivered in a breathless yelp, like there just wasn’t enough time. She also designed her own clothes, providing an inspirational alternative to young women finding their own way “outside,” much in the same way that Siouxsie Sioux did. The Spex debut, Germ Free Adolescents was a classic of the genre and their shows were manic calls to action, but it was all too much too soon for Styrene. After seeing what she claims was a UFO in 1979, she abruptly quit the band, had a breakdown, and ended up a Hare Krishna. After that, recording and performing was only sporadic and somewhat less than satisfying. This live document, in fact, seems to signal the first sustained return for Styrene and her Spex in years.

And she looks great! At the risk of sounding superficial, I don’t believe that Poly Styrene has aged a day. No physical signs of age. She bounds and whirls around the stage with abandon, clad in a black empire-waisted dress, stockings, combat boots, and a jaunty rhinestone red beret perched atop her long, straight hair. A wide smile never leaves her face as she surveys both her peers and her spiritual children.

This CD and DVD package is an attractive proposition. You get a crisp, high-quality video recording of the Roundhouse Reunion show and a twin CD of that same show. Both discs are housed in a handsome, Styrene-designed hardback book-style cover with extensive liner notes penned by Poly and a wealth of vintage photos.

Kicking off strong with the still-fiery “Oh Bondage Up Yours,” the band speeds through a greatest-hits set. Twenty songs (!) worth, including such still-topical social critiques as “Warrior in Woolworths,” “Genetic Engineering,” “I Am A Cliche,” “The Day the World Turned Day Glo,” “Identity”… man, this stuff is still inspirational. Yet there are some bum notes herein. Styrene’s voice gets a little strained (which she herself admitted in later interviews) from more lack of use than wear and tear, and the band’s performances tend toward the monochrome at points. And though I get a kick out of seeing Styrene’s two daughters duet with her, c’mon, playing “Oh Bondage Up Yours” twice (once at the beginning and once at the end)? That said, it’s so fucking gratifying to see the endlessly influential and evergreen Styrene up on stage again that I can’t help but recommend this.

Future Noise: futurenoisemusic.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    So It Is (Legacy). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017
    From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017

    For the twelfth year, the South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) in Los Angeles showcased an impressive lineup of new features and shorts. Lily and Generoso Fierro provide a festival wrap up and their picks for the films that you cannot miss.

  • Justin Townes Earle
    Justin Townes Earle

    Kids In The Street (New West Records). Review by James Mann.

  • Christian Scott
    Christian Scott

    Rebel Ruler (Ropeadope / Stretch Music). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Kivanç Sezer
    Kivanç Sezer

    Turkish director Kivanç Sezer’s powerful debut feature, My Father’s Wings, puts the spotlight on the workplace safety crisis that is currently taking place in his homeland. Lily and Generoso Fierro spoke with Sezer at SEEFest 2017 about his film and his need to draw attention to this issue.

  • Temples

    Supporting their just-released sophomore record, UK synth-pop poster boys, Temples, attracted an SRO crowd to one of Orlando’s premier nightspots.

  • Rat Film
    Rat Film

    Baltimore. Rats. A match made in Maryland.

  • Bishop Briggs
    Bishop Briggs

    Bishop Briggs brings a stacked bill of up and comers to Orlando for a sold-out party at The Social. Jen Cray joins in the fun.

  • Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World
    Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World

    There’s more than black music influencing the evolution of Rock and Roll. Native American rhymes and ideas are every bit as significant, once you know to look for them.

  • Keith Morris
    Keith Morris

    Ink 19 slings a few questions to the punk rock pioneer Keith Morris on Trump, Calexit and looking back.

From the Archives