“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. But I think…….
Oh Bondage Up Yours! One, Two, Three, FOUR!”

And with those words Poly Styrene smashed her way into my world. The year was 1977 and music, particularly rock music, was a very different place from today. Largely a male dominated genre to that point, women were starting to emerge, and punk rock in particular was allowing them to vent their anger in public. Ladies such as Patti Smith and Debby Harry were leading the charge stateside, whilst The Slits, Siouxie Sioux and Poly Styrene were empowering women in a way not seen in British music previously.

Poly’s band X Ray Spex had a relatively short career from 1976-79, although they left behind the legacy of one of punk’s finest, and unheralded, moments in their debut album “Germ Free Adolescents”. Poly’s further foray into music remained sporadic thereafter and although there were solo albums “Translucence” in 1980 and “Flower Aeroplane” in 2004, little was heard from her as she concentrated on her devotions to Hari Krishna.

But more or less out of the blue, at the end of 2010 she announced her return to the music scene with the alternative festive anthem ‘Black Christmas’, closely followed by an album “Generation Indigo” to be released at the end of March. Produced by Youth (The Verve, Killing Joke, The Fireman, Edwyn Collins), I was unsure what to expect. Many punk bands, mainly through fan/peer pressure, stick to regurgitating the same album ad infinitum. There’s nothing really wrong with that, and I must say I still take pleasure in hearing the UK Subs latest offering as much as I did their previous 21 (yes really) albums, even though they are intrinsically the same record.

But Poly has gone way out on a limb here. There are just so many different musical styles, it a veritable smorgasbord of pop, rock, hip-hop, trance, dubstep, reggae, ragga etc. I suppose if you’re going to be away for such a long time you may as well come back with a bang, and my God does she deliver.

Opening track “I Luv UR Sneakers” is in the same ball park as the Ting Tings. Poly’s voice seems distinctly warmer and mellower than I remember, as back in the day she could cut steel when hitting the high notes. This song appears to be a praise of trainers, especially vegetarian/vegan ones produced so “no animal died or lost its soul in the production of”. The chorus confirms her love of casual sporting footwear, although if she was ever downwind of my 4 year old Puma’s she might change her mind.

The single “Virtual Boyfriend” is next up and for a moment the synth intro transports me back to the early ‘80’s, and Mute Record bands like Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget and the Silicon Teens. This is catchy as hell and satires the relationships that begin and end on social networking sites, without the necessity of ever having to meet in person. As she says “You’re like a MySpace friend that’s all, just a text or a missed
call, I never knew but I lost control, that you loved your Blackberry phone”. And it’s got a great video to accompany it as well.


And so just when you think you can see where the sound of the album is going, she throws in the first of several curveballs with title track “Generation Indigo”. Having a laid back reggae, dub inspired sound it was inspired by Indigo Children. As Poly explains, this is the name of the "the generation my daughter was born into, a generation that can change things". Incidentally her daughter Celeste, and sister, contributed backing vocals throughout the album, so the record was truly a family affair.

Next track “Kitsch” revolves around all the negative things that are sometimes said about women, but turning them around and throwing them back in the accusers face, all set to a disco beat. Polly’s green credentials come to the fore on “White Gold”. Bemoaning the necessity for wars to be fought over the black gold of oil, and consequential ecological disasters such as the recent Gulf of Mexico spill, she muses on the possibility that if global warming continues unchecked then future conflicts could be over water reserves and in particular the White Gold of the arctic ice caps.

After a semi return to her roots on rocker “L.U.V.”, there is the rather eerily chilling “Ghoulish”. A song partly inspired by Michael Jackson, Polly explains that "It was written around the time he was dying and there were all these pictures of his nose, and his white face, and the make-up. It did look ghoulish, but you could also see that maybe underneath the mask there was quite a nice person." She was aided and abetted on the track by another of punks high priestesses, as The Slits’ Viv Albertine laid down the guitar parts. Over all the song had a trance like feel, with Polly’s vocals seeming to be floating in the distance.

Back to politics for “Code Pink Dub” a reggae inspired number that includes a refrain highlighting something we have all being saying for a while now, “We’ve got to get the hell out of Iraq”. Similarly, “Colour Blind” sets to a Trojan ska backbeat her horrified feelings over the BNP’s success in gaining seats on local councils.

Poly no longer resides in London and so “Trash City”, is her take on the Capital nowadays. More punk that the preceding few tracks, it reflects her view that the City retains the pulse and energy of her youth. Back to reggae for penultimate track “No Rockefeller” with her voice bearing more than passing remembrance to Debby Harry on Blondie’s The Tide is High. And finally, “Electric Blue Monsoon”, which is mostly sung acappella. It has a rather ethereal quality, which befits the subject matter as Poly said that it was written when she was thinking of Krishna. Apparently if you see an image of him it is the colour of an electric blue monsoon.

So there we have it, a delightful and eclectic mix of songs and styles, and a great comeback from a lady whose formative years were spent at the forefront of a music revolution that changed this country forever.

However, most people are aware that unfortunately Poly has not been too well of late. So whichever omnipresent deity you believe in (or not) I think you could do worse that offer up a silent prayer for the speedy recovery of this beautiful lady.