Poly Styrene - Generation Indigo
"The colour, the canvas, the rubber toe / No animal was harmed in the production of...your beautiful sneakers..." Ouch. Emerging in the late 70s in a volley of headshots against a society wracked with greed and injustice, X-Ray Spex engaged with the politics of the time as feverishly as any of their peers. Now in her early fifties and, sad to say, battling breast cancer, their iconic leader emerges sounding as savvy as, but distinctly wiser than, many of the supposed bright young things. Generation Indigo, produced by Youth, posits a clued-up take on politics, consumerism ('Luv Yr Sneakers') and bad romance against a craftily designed electro-pop backing. It mocks modern mores with been-there-done-that insouciance while at the same time firing irresistible beats from every angle. 'Ghoulish' and 'No Rockefeller' pulse with the kind of pop punch that bring to mind both seminal (Eat to the Beat era Blondie) and arch re-invention (Tranvision Vamp's under-appreciated Veleveteen). Youth supposedly sent his charge back to the drawing board initially, telling her she needed a stronger set of songs. She duly obliged. Smart direction, that. The fruits of this adroit pairing are undeniable, not least in how the songs and their arrangements fit the voice; 'difficult' if not managed, largely fabulous here. Throughout, Generation Indigo brims with ideas and invention, flirts with genres (dubstep and reggae expertly negotiated) and showcases a sharp intelligence and an unflagging spirit. That she's so seriously ill while sounding so young and so alive is cruelty beyond comprehension. For her undeniable influence on a generation of young female musicians, we owe her so much. It is, of course, the ultimate irony that this tremendous album finds her in rude health. We wish her well and then some.