Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Identity is the crisis you can't see - RIP Poly Styrene
"Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. I say, oh bondage! Up yours!"
For me, X-Ray Spexs were a band I initially savored alone, in the electric privacy of my bedroom, wondering at the weird, spacey reverb and anti-deodorant message of 'Germ Free Adolescents' (I decided to file it next to The Slit's Typical Girls; worrying about "spots, fat and natural smells" was b.o.r.i.n.g). Later, Poly's songs became life anthems I howled along too, drunk and grinning, in a small, dark, sweaty basement club off Tottenham Court Road, surrounded by girls I'd kissed and boys I shared eyeliner with. I remember these perfect, stillness-in-the-chaos moments where the first, steady "Iiiiiiii" of 'Identity' would start up and all the Spexs fans would snap into action, taking up the wild yell like a tribe. I think it meant something different and awesome for each of us - all the beautiful freaks and queers dancing together in a space where we were (mostly) safe to just BE.
The club is no longer there - it was bulldozed recently to make way for the expanding tube station - and the Woolworths Poly worked in as a teenager and sung about in 'Warrior In Woolworths' has also disappeared, a red font emblem of staple UK consumer culture now sunk in nostalgia. For me, Poly represents the best of rebellious British women, a Brixton gyal done good. Her voice was just as potent to me in the late 90's/early 00's as it must have been to people in the the 70's, a voice that centered those gleefully inebriated moments saturated with jazzy punk saxaphone noise and freedom and the joy of finding a community of kindred weirdos. She gave my emerging queer self a rally cry.
RIP Poly Styrene.