X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents

by Jeff Penczak Rating:9 Release Date:1978-10-11
X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents
X-Ray Spex - Germfree Adolescents

It’s been 40 years since ‘The World Turned Day-Glo’ and Poly Styrene & Co. sliced through the ‘Art-I-Ficial’ world of consumerism. Germfree Adolescents is a brutally honest broadside against ‘Genetic Engineering’, poseurs, ‘Warriors in Woolworths’, bandwagon-jumpers searching for their ‘Identity’ in the weeklies and fashion magazines, frustrated about living on the dole because ‘I Can’t Do Anything’.

Everything is set to Jak Airport’s buzzsaw guitars and Rudi Thompson’s bleating sax farts, but it’s Styrene’s screeching yelps and atonal barking that drive home her lyrical vitriol – the musical equivalent of Peter Finch’s legendary pronouncement for this lost generation of punks gone wild: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore.”

‘Obsessed With You’ runs you over like the proverbial train that kept a-rollin’, ‘Genetic Engineering’ sieg heils its way into the brain like Siouxsie on speed, and the title track slows things down for a genuine ballad with an actually pretty melody and sedate backing. ‘I Can’t Do Anything’ (about revenge with a pet rat) sounds like a Blondie outtake, and the self-deprecating ‘I Am A Poseur’ is torn from the same cloth as the pre-LP B-side ‘I Am A Cliché’. Poly may be permanently pissed off, but she’s having fun sharing her misery!

X-ray Spex opened the doors for later female/female-led punk bands like The Slits, Raincoats, Vice Squad, and the Banshees to receive green lights for their albums when Germfree Adolescents  (and it's three accompanying Top 25 singles) cracked the Top 30, establishing in chauvinistic label head’s minds that the punters in the male-dominated punk scene would buy music made by women. The kids were rewarded with an album frequently cited as a high-water mark in British punk rock, an album which vilified the acclaim tossed in the band’s general direction on the heels of stunning debut debauch, the still staggeringly shocking ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’ that Virgin bravely coughed up the previous year (and available on some album reissues, along with their other non-LP singles).

Styrene would leave the band the following year, record a brilliant solo album of dreamy pop that’s 180 degrees away from “Germfree”, and then briefly joined the Hare Krishnas before returning with an EP (1986) and two additional solo albums in 2004 and 2011 in New Age and dancey, Spice Girls veins respectively. She died at 53 from cancer in 2011, one month after Generation Indigo was released. Airport and drummer Paul Hurding formed Classix Nouveaux, with Airport later working for the BBC. He also died from cancer in 2004. Thompson and bassist Paul Dean formed Agent Orange (UK version; apparently no recordings exist). But it's this one-off masterpiece that still sends shivers up the spine 40 years later.

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