UK Punk rocks most voiciferous front woman died of cancer on 26th April 2011, barely a month after releasing a surprising comeback album. Poly Styrene’s album ‘Generation Indigo’ serves as an ironically upbeat and colourful epitaph to a trailblazing artist who undeservedly disappeared from view as Punk rock’s first wave ebbed off.
Styrene fought against gender stereotypes on the 1977 Punk hit ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’ and sneered at the fall-out of star culture on 1978’s ‘Identity’. Her voice encapsulated all that was exciting about original 70’s Punk rock: Untrained, unpolished, raw and bursting with energy. This lady could shout down a saxophone if needed, just listen to her epic battle with said instrument on ‘Bondage’.
X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage Up Yours (1977)
Her band, the X-Ray Spex, imploded prematurely in 1979 and Poly literally disappeared from view for more than 30 years. She returned to the scene earlier this year with a new album ‘Generation Indigo’ aided by a host of contemporaries from the 1978/79 heyday of British New Wave. Youth, bass man with seminal proto metal band Killing Joke produced the album and Viv Albertine of punky Reggae girl band The Slits contributes guitar riffs.
Poly herself admitted that it’s largely down to Youth’s encouragement that ‘Generation Indigo’ came together. Written and recorded in Youth’s own studio in sunny Spain, ‘Generation Indigo’ has a bright, upbeat feel to it. Yes, former X-Ray Spex fans listen carefully, Poly made a Pop record in her last days. In fact, much of ‘Generation Indigo’ is so unashamedly Pop that I wouldn’t be surprised if some track here will turn up as a posthumous European holiday resort hit.
Maybe it’s going to be the infectious hymn to vegan footwear ‘I Luv Ur Sneakers’ - Think Hercules & Love Affair meets Blondie. Or maybe it’s going to be my other favourite on the album, the very ironic ‘Kitsch’.
Fate hasn’t been too kind to Poly. After the too-much-hype-too-soon days of the X-Ray Spex she has suffered various health problems, culminating in her battle with cancer. Despite her deteriorating health, Styrene was firing on all cylinders when she recorded ‘Generation Indigo’ - 30-odd years after her last Top Of The Pops appearance. Some of the songs may not be quite my cup of tea, but when things come together as on ‘I Luv Ur Sneakers’ I doff my cap to Poly’s late found Pop sensitivity. ‘Generation Indigo’ is a surprisingly good comeback album - Shame that she is no longer around to continue this creative streak.
At this stage, I hand over to Poly herself who described her comeback album better than I could.
Poly Styrene Talks You Through ‘Generation Indigo’
RIP Poly Styrene, 1957-2011