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Saturday, 21 April 2012

X-ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents (The Anthology)

Looking back it's hard to see what the appeal was with punk. Hindsight shows that the really big guns (The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned) were all rubbish or at best hopelessly over-rated. That's not to say that the influence of punk wasn't a massive positive on the world of music and we all owe these bands a hell of a lot, but just that musically you can file the Pistols next to Sigue Sigue Sputnik and spitting at live bands now seems a health and safety hazard rather than an act of rebellion. And as for the Clash...don't get me started. Only Siouxsie had anything particularly innovative to say.

The real quality in the genre came from the next level of punk bands who took on the ideals and attitudes but added a little style and sense of humour. I'd include the Undertones and the Buzzcocks in this batch as well as the much under-rated and gloriously fun-packed X-ray Spex. I was relatively unfamiliar with the band before listening to this anthology, but the sheer joy and passion in the music is enough to win over the most cynical of punk doubters.

The late, great Polly Styrene is a charismatic and surprisingly powerful singer, and also provided a focal point for the band with her snazzy dance moves and unique eye for fashion. Polly didn't adhere to the punk dogma, but was a true original and created something new and groundbreaking in terms of the look and sound she created for the band. She squeals, screams and shouts her way through this collection of songs and somehow it all makes perfect sense and more importantly, you know that the whole band are loving every minute.

Described at the time as 'deliberate underachievers' X-ray Spex didn't produce masses of material and so the compilation sticks with the classics on CD 1 with live versions of the classics on CD2. All the songs presented are high-octane, sax driven blasts of new wave rock with the exception of the more tranquil but equally quirky 'Germfree Adolescents.' My personal favourites are 'Oh Bondage', 'Identity' and the brilliant but bonkers 'The Day the World Turned Day Glo.'

This is an essential purchase for all fans of alternative music and I was left with the feeling that X-ray Spex were not given half the acclaim, respect or publicity they deserved, perhaps because they didn't fit the punk stereotype created in the press at the time. If I was going to the moon I'd rather take one of Polly's tracks than the entire back catalogue of the Clash. The band were true innovators and deserve re-examining in the sterile world of the 21st Century.


  1. This sounds really good. Guitars. Shouting. Horns. Green knitted hat. A recipe for success if ever I heard one.

  2. What's the title of the second song? I've definitely heard it before, but I'm not sure whether it was a cover. It's a top song though.

  3. Second song is 'Identity' - quality fashion and moves. Me and Daughter of DocC love X-Ray Spex to the point where she wanted to play 'Oh Bondage Up Yours' at my funeral. Just a pity they did so few songs.