, April 8th, 2011 12:56
Punk threw out so many possibilities that we are still fascinated by it decades later. There were so many ways to be punk, so many ways to redefine the world you lived in. So many rule books getting re-written. Poly Styrene was a vivacious 19-year-old who fronted X-Ray Spex. She wrote amazing lyrics and melodies about consumerism and plastic that made you laugh and think and feel. She dressed in her own style and, refusing to play the dolly bird card prevalent in pre-punk, managed to look even more beautiful by being herself. She oozed humour and originality, had a unique and vibrant voice and was a pop star for a brief flicker of time before disappearing to join the Hare Krishnas. Since then there have been intermittent solo releases that veered a long way away from the punk template, and occasional sightings.
She re-emerged two years ago for a sold-out gig at the Roundhouse. When asked to record a solo album, she accepted despite being unsure… then the songs poured out. The result is the forward-looking Generation Indigo, an album that sees Poly deal 2011 songs about pop culture, clothes, love, war and terrorism. Humour and darkness all rolled together - perfect Poly.
Anyone expecting an X-Ray Spex rerun will be disappointed. There are some punky moments on here but Poly is now 51, and she is not trapped by her past. She is adept at reggae, pop and melancholy as well as punchy punk rock; there is bubblegum on 'I Luv UR Sneakers', optimism on the title track, and a pop sadness on non-album download single 'Black Christmas'.
Naturally, there are still moments of the punchy punk rock pop she made her name with, but there is also dub, reggae, electro, pure pop and mantra-music to back up her still-great voice, which combines innocence with a perceptive, very smart and very 21st century take on the world, and remains a powerful and thrilling tool.
Poly is also a newshound; with the 24 hour news flickering in the background, her informed view on the world gives her plenty of space to twist it into new shapes for witty and perceptive takes on modern culture.
Lyrically, she is as sharp as ever, combining serious subject matter with that off- the-wall touch that makes her easily one of the best lyricists of her generation. Poly turns her eye to the new world of internet dating on 'Virtual Boyfriend', gets serious on the anti- war 'Code Pink' and makes a stand against racists on 'Colour Blind'. The spiritual yearning of 'Electric Blue Monsoon', meanwhile, coupled with 'Thrash City's commentary on the fast, dirty modern world, gives a contrast to her ethereal stance.
There is also the classic Poly consumer commentary of 'Kitsch', while 'Black Gold', the result of her endless watching of news channels, manages to sum up the fucked up greed of the modern world situation in one song.
Bringing in Youth to produce was a master stroke. The Killing Joke bassist, with his ear for hooks, has helped to craft an album of perfect pop, but pop in the way that punk rock was also perfect pop in its own right. Generation Indigo is a fantastic return for Poly, who about to pull off an unlikely comeback, connects with modern times both musically and lyrically on this triumphant album.