Saturday, March 11, 2017

Germ Free Adolescents & Shows # 647 & # 648


Like many bands that formed and created music in the UK in the late 70s, X-Ray Spex was influenced by the Sex Pistols. Formed by Poly Styrene (vocals) and Lora Logic (saxophone), Jak Airport (guitar), Paul Dean (bass) and B.P. Hurding on drums in 1976, X-Ray Spex shot out of the vortex of the 70s UK punk scene. They ended as a band shortly after the release of their full-length album, Germ Free Adolescents. Musically the band featured a sound influenced by 70s punk, but one that came off with a sound mixing elements of proto punk, glam and mod music. You can hear the influence of Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Mick Jones (The Clash) and Mick Ronson (David Bowie), amongst other influences in the band’s make up. This sound was mixed in with saxophone and erratic high energy levels provided by lead singer and front woman, Poly Styrene. Lyrically, X-Ray Spex delved into many anti-commercial based themes that questioned Britain’s consumer based society at the time.

Germ Free Adolescents opens with the song “The Day The World Turned Day-Glo”. In between the chugging guitars and sleazy saxophones, Styrene sings of a world painted with and dominated by, synthetic products that glows in a haunting disdain. “Obsessed With You” features lyrics such as “You are just a concept/You are just a dream/You’re just a reflection of the new regime”, mixed in with a chorus that features lyrics that portray a love/hate relationship that can show commercial products as being disenchanting and romantic to some. “Identity” attacks with buzz saw guitars and soulful 50s saxophone parts and lyrics that rally for independence and finding yourself. The song can take on many forms, but also relates to the way women perceive themselves based on the “perfect” image that is broadcast by the mainstream media. The message in this song is one that still rings true today. “I Live Off You” features excellent R&B saxophone parts performed by Rudi Thomson. He joined the band after Lora Logic left the group shortly after the recording of the band’s first single Oh Bondage! Up Yours!/I Am A Clich√©. The lyrics have an effective melody that drifts from melodic to high pitched. Lyrically the song portrays a chain of command of exploitation, whether it is by commercialism or by other means.

“Germ Free Adolescent” takes things down a bit as a more mid-tempo number with dominant bass, keyboards, drums and vocals. Styrene sings of toothpaste and a character obsessed with cleanliness, so much so that it appears this character that has a form of OCD that cannot wash off the advertisements that they hear on a daily basis. “Art-I-Ficial” features lyrics such as “I know I’m artificial/But don’t put the blame on me/I was reared with appliances in a consumer society”. In between the proto-punk guitar riffs, drum rolls and bouncy basslines, Styrene sings of a fakeness that is created by consumer society and one that is difficult to separate yourself from. “Warrior In Woolworths” drifts into T.Rex territory, “I Can’t Do Anything” features static sounding guitar, rolling basslines, wheezy saxophone lines and is notable for the lyrics “Freddy tried to strangle me with my plastic popper beads/But I hit him back with my pet rat”. This song, like many on Germ Free Adolescents is layered in multiple meanings. “I Can’t Do Anything” seems to be a cathartic song dealing with oppression.

“Plastic Bag” boasts heavy guitar riffs and speedy saxophone lines that drift in between the slower breakdowns of the song. This song, like many on the album, question the way society is and how people live within it. Poly Styrene could be saying here that her mind is “like a plastic bag”, it can be filled with anything and is often perceived as cheap and disposable. But, within this song and amongst the songs on Germ Free Adolescents, the lyrics cry for a search for satisfaction that is lost due to an alienation that separates us from our true potential. Heavy stuff at times, but it is executed in a way that it is not all bleak and the deeper meanings of Germ Free Adolescents sink below the surface of these songs, only resurface at differing points.

By 1980, X-Ray Spex split up and various members were on to other things. Although they reformed for another album, Conscious Consumer in 1995, the impact of their first album and of their first single and what some view as their finest moment, “Oh Bondage! Up Yours”, overshadows other points in the band’s history. Germ Free Adolescents questions, challenges, and brings up themes of commercialism, identity, oppression and gender roles in a way that is just as relevant today as it was in 1978. With Germ Free Adolescents, we learn that there are some things you just can’t wash off so easily.

(Note: This write-up refers to the 1991/2005 reissue track order of Germ Free Adolescents.)

Show 648 (International Women's Day Special):

1. X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage! Up Yours! (Oh Bondage! Up Yours!/I Am A Cliche - 1977)
2. The Pebbles - The Pebbles Twist (The First Album - 1997)
3. Dorothy Berry - You Better Watch Out (You Better Watch Out/Ain't That Love - 1964)
4. The Ronettes - You Bet I Would (Silhouettes/You Bet I Would - 1965)
5. Dusty Springfield- Willie & Laura Mae Jones (Dusty In Memphis - 1969)
6. The Velvet Underground - Femme Fatale (Velvet Underground & Nico - 1967)
7. Sonic Youth - Shadow Of A Doubt (Evol - 1986)
8. The Luyas - Self Unemployed Human (Voicing - 2017)
9. Dream Whip - Beach Dreams (Dream Whip - 2017)
10. Mexican Knives - Smother (Mexican Knives - 2015)
11. The Highest Order - Hurry Down (Still Holding - 2016)
11. Sky Wallace - Blood Moon (Something Wicked - 2016)
12. Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out (Live In Paris - 2017)
13. White Lung - Take The Mirror (Sorry - 2012)
14. PJ Harvey Hardly - Wait (4 Track Demos - 1993)
15. X-Ray Spex - Identity (Germ Free Adolescents - 1977)
16. X-Ray Spex - Germ Free Adolescents (Germ Free Adolescents - 1977)
17. X-Ray Spex - Art-I-ficial (John Peel Session) (Germ Free Adolescents - 2005)
18. Kleenex "1978" (First Songs - 2016)
19. Liliput - Hitch Hike (First Songs - 2016)
20. Teenanger - Mild Survival (EPLP - 2014)
21. The Modernettes - Static (View From The Bottom - 1982)
22. The Zellots - Empty Victories (Demo - 1980)
23. The New Pornographers - All For Swinging You Around (Electric Version - 2003)
24. Lost Patrol - See Me Now The (Lost Patrol - 1988)
25. The Gories - Stranded (I Know You Fine But How You Doin - 1990)
26. Demolition Doll Rods - Doo Walka-Walka (Tasty - 1997)
27. The Jackets - Freak Out (Way Out - 2012)
28. The Beat Happening - Noise (You Turn Me On - 1992)
29. Destroy All Monsters - Nobody Knows (What Do I Get/Nobody Knows - 1979)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 11.


Show 647 (Oblivians, Mummies & More):

1. The Oblivians - Hey Mama, Look At Sis
2. The Oblivians - Blew My Cool
3. The Mummies - Test Drive
4. The Mummies - Stronger Than Dirt
5. Ty Segall - Thank You Mr. K
6. Vagabon - Minneapolis
7. Priests - JJ
8. Dream Whip - Hookser Du
9. Century Palm - New Creation
10. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner - Stamps
11. The Birthday Party - Swampland Mutiny
12. Pissed Jeans - Have You Ever Been Furniture
13. Culture - I'm Not Ashamed
14. Jack Lee - Come Back And Stay
15. John Wesley Coleman III - Hang Tight
16. The Sadies - Another Season Again
17. The Sadies - The Noise Museum
18. The O-L West - Afterthought No. 3
19. Old 97's - Nobody
20. 9th Wave = Full Throttle
21. No Aloha - Trips
22. All Hands On Jane - Kitty City
23. Film Jacket 35 - Chocked On My Ego
24. Paul Jacobs - Quarter To Eleven
25. Cawama - Planet Of The Sharks
26. The Cheetahs - Magic Dollar
27. The Replacements - Whole Foods Blues (Live Hollywood Paladium April 16 2015)
28. Bash & Pop - Anything Could Happen
29. The I Don't Cares - Whole Lotta Nothin'
30. Tobin Sprout - I Fall You Fall

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for March 4.

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