Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘X’.
“My mind is like a plastic bag,” intones punk princess, pretty Poly-styrene, on the song of the same name. Her group goes by the name X-Ray Spex (Jak Airport, guitar; Paul Dean, bass; Rudi Thompson, sax; BP Hurding, drums; and Poly-styrene, vocals as well as leader and song writer.
They’re a group responsible for one of the classic early British punk singles, the name of which precludes publication (this is a family paper).
Germ Free Adolescents is their debut album (released in Britain November last) and the vitriol, potency and passion so evident on that first single has not dissipated.
The band are adequate musicians but strictly anonymous. Poly runs the show. The songs are about living in our plastic society, coping with technology, assimilating, becoming plastic ourselves.
“I know I’m artificial/but don’t put the blame on me/I was reared with appliances/in a consumer society/When I put on my makeup/a pretty little mask not me/That’s the way a girl should be/in a consumer society.” (‘Artificial’).
‘Artificial’ shows the group’s punk roots, but elsewhere on the album, Spex widen horizons and stretch out with the folk-influences ‘Warrior In Woolworths’, or the melodic pop of ‘I Can’t Do Anything’ (sung in an endearingly cute voice) and the title track.
They face problems of ‘Identity’, and look into the future with ‘Genetic Engineering and ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’. No punk/new wave collection is complete without it. 7/10
XTC – Drums & Wires (Virgin)
XTC rid themselves of all arty pretensions on Drums & Wires, producing a very strong, uncompromising brew. 8/10