Back in the 1980s, there would invariably be some "classic rock" figure who tried to make a comeback. Amid the rote Rolling Stone reviews trumpeting "A return to form", there was usually an attempt by the rocker in question to show how modern he or she was and that usually just involved a bit of scratching on a track, or the use of Synsonic drums on another cut.
These efforts invariably made the artist in question sound even older and more out of touch.
The challenge in pleasing old fans and doing something a bit different is not an easy one but I am happy to report that Poly Styrene has triumphantly returned with a wonderful album, Generation Indigo, that sounds effortlessly current and timely.
Just hearing her sing the punchy verses and soaring chorus of "White Gold" was almost worth the wait.
Poly, you have been sorely missed in this moribund musical climate!
Produced by Killing Joke's Youth, the album is a crisp and peppy affair combining elements of dance, pop, and reggae in a rich mix underneath Poly's always playful and witty lyrics and vocals.
While the sound may be different, Generation Indigo made me think of fellow punk legend Joe Strummer's work with the Mescaleros. Like Mr. Strummer, Ms. Styrene wisely doesn't try to recreate the fury of earlier singles from punk's heyday but, instead, finds material that suits her voice and sounds true to the essence of the punk rocker we so admired back in 1977 - 1978.
"Kitsch" has a bit of an attitude but Poly sounds at ease defending herself as being "a little bit kitsch" as the keyboards echo both early Pulp and earlier Human League.
"I Luv Ur Sneakers" updates Blur's "Girls & Boys" for another generation as Poly lovingly describes her admiration for (maybe) a younger generation and their collective style. It's an affectionate song and one of the more shamelessly catchy tracks on the record.
On "Ghoulish", Poly is joined by Viv Albertine from The Slits on guitar. The song, a funny ode to a Goth guy who may not be as scary as he looks, finds Poly Styrene's voice sounding better than it ever has and -- it has to be said -- there's a decided echo of Debbie Harry here.
"No Rockefeller" brings a lite Bad Manners vibe to the proceedings as Poly reminds us that greatness doesn't necessarily come with wealth and that "Winnie Mandela, well she was not a Rockefeller".
Album closer "Electric Blue Monsoon" present Poly's voice as directly as it's ever been presented. Really, a simple and stunning track that made me realize -- again -- that Poly Styrene is not only one of my favorite musicians of the entire punk rock era, she's one of my favorite vocalists. Period.
Generation Indigo should satisfy most fans of Poly Styrene. The lyrical concerns are the same as before but conveyed in an even more direct fashion than in the past, while the music expands upon the punk-ska-pop template used by X-Ray Spex.
Now, we've just got to wait for Poly Styrene to record even more great music!
In the US, you can order Generation Indigo on iTunes here.
In the US, you can order Generation Indigo on CD from Amazon here, and on a limited edition CD here, or as an MP3 download here.
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