Saturday, January 03, 2009

Before Our Time: X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents

As previously mentioned, my love of 70's punk rock runs deep. What's funny is that it doesn't stem from some rebellious high school years, as it does for many people (I was too busy thinking ska was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to music). No, my love stems from a rock history class I took a few years back. I don't know why, but this musical rebellion took home in my heart.

This love has only grown from there. Not long after this class, I picked up one of Rhino's great boxed sets No Thanks! The 70's Punk Rebellion. It was filled with gems of this era that I would have never otherwise heard of because I was born nearly 5 years after that genre took a turn for the worse. One of these gems was X-Ray Spex's "Oh! Bondage Up Yours!" From Poly Styrene's shout of "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think..." I was sold.

It wasn't until recently that I actually found the X-Ray's debut (and only) album "GermFree Adolescents." It was one of those choice record shop finds.

As is to be expected, lyrically Poly has a point to make, but unlike the sentiments of so many punk rock bands, her point is still valid today. She seems to have her crosshairs set on our consumerists society, which has only gotten worse since this albums release in 1978. Out of the gates on "Art-I-Ficial" she yelps "I know I'm artificial, but don't put the blame on me/I was reared with appliances in a consumer society" The theme continues all the way through to the final track "The Day The World Turned Day-Glo" about the trash collecting up in the world.

With such hefty subject matter, the music could turn very somber and nihilistic, but in this regard, the spex take the high road. The album is extremely poppy and hook-filled. Just try and not sing along when the chorus hits on "Germ Free Adolescents" The album shines with flourishes from Lora Logic's sax playing on most tracks.

Now, nearly 30 years from the release of this album, it's hard not to see this albums influence on the indie music world. Where would the Riot Grrrls of the 90's have been without this? Or what about more recently, Love Is All? This album is one of the punk rock greats that will continually be left out of music history books, and everyone should own a copy.

1 comment:

Owen said...

A second Spex album was released in the early '90s during a brief reunion - 'Conscious Consumer' - that continues some of the themes you mention. It's not as raw as the first album but great nonetheless.