75 Essential Albums – Day #60 – X-Ray Spex

Here goes with day 60 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

X-Ray Specs – Germ Free Adolescents

Germfree Adolescents is the debut album of English punk rock band X-Ray Spex. It contained the UK hit singles: “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”,  “Identity” and “Germ Free Adolescence” which reached No. 18 in November 1978.  The album received wide acclaim upon its release but sadly the album did not include the huge hit ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’, though this was included on the 2005 reissue.

Punk rock in the United Kingdom was well established by 1978 with bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash cutting a trail for others to follow.  With their overt political viewpoints and anti-establishment stance these bands and bands like X-Ray Spex represented a serious ‘call to arms’  and a rallying point for disaffected youth across the UK and beyond.  The only negative thing you could say about X-Ray Spex is that their star burned for much to short a time, but boy did it burn brightly.

X-ray Spex lead singer Poly Styrene was in many ways the antithesis of punk rocks other big female star, Blondie’s Debbie Harry.  Where Harry was often low key and smouldering in her delivery and in her sexuality Poly Styrene was a walking, screaming tornado of unrepressed sexuality, anti-consumerism, and political determination. She was in your face, aggressive and would make a difference, come hell or high water.

The opening lines of the album, “I know I’m artificial/ But don’t put the blame on me/ I was reared with appliances in a consumer society” sets the tone for the album, it lays the groundwork for the album with its screaming guitars and when Poly’s vocal comes in you damn well better sit up and listen.  The title track is slower tempo and more reflective but no less engaging for that.  “Identity” races along with its swirling guitar duelling with Lora Logic’s saxophone.  Yes Saxophone, in a punk band and that saxophone is one of the most raucous, invigorating things you’ll ever hear.  Rocker “Obsessed With You” hits the ball out of the park, with squealing sax and driving guitar.

Closing track “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo,” with its saxophone riffs and scorching vocals, is perhaps the bands most memorable track. The rest of the record is a whirlwind of sardonic anthems (“I Am A Poseur,” “I Live Off You”) and punk aphorisms (“Let’s Submerge,” “I Can’t Do Anything”) concerning the difficulties of attaining and maintaining your own unique personality.

It is probably fair to say that the impact of this album is easier to see in retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight.  Their honest intensity and rebellion against conformity and consumerism undoubtably left its mark and set the standard for many of the bands who followed in their wake.  Whilst the band had a pitifully short shelf life, sadly their message, even today, is  all too relevant.  If you do not know the album check it out, it is very well worth the effort.

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