The Anthology

X-Ray Spex

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The Anthology Review

by Dave Thompson

Fronted by the effervescently discordant Poly Styrene, and with their punk thrashing immeasurably spiced by Lora Logic's honking sax, the original X-Ray Spex were indeed a sight for sore ears. The ultimate disposable DIY project, obsessing on plastic bags and the detritus of modern society, X-Ray Spex were a full scale assault on the boundaries of everything music held holy, from tunefulness on down - a bagful of cats was more harmonic than Styrene, a guitar store full of Uli Jon Roth fans was more melodic than her band. Which was what punk was (meant to be) all about. Anthology offers all you could wish to hear of that and more. Opening with a full recounting of the band's 1977-78 studio output, from the "Oh Bondage! Up Yours" single introduced them to the world, to the Germ Free Adolescents album that left them shimmering on the brink of stardom, Anthology marches on with ten rough mixes that predated the album itself, and a second CD devoted to a vintage 1977 live recording (hitherto available on the group's Live At The Roxy album). With the regular album (hopefully) familiar to anybody who cares about the band, it's the mixes and the live material that are of the greatest interest, an unharnessed roar of rawness that illustrates both the innate strength of Styrene's lyrics, and the sheer adrenalined oomph of the group. In pure musical terms, it can sometimes seem a bloody awful racket. But, even in the pits of an instrumental meander through "Warrior In Woolworths", or hurtling through a lo-fi live "Plastic bag", it has a strength of purpose and a punchy power which established X Ray Spex among the mere handful of bands that truly recognized punk's limitations - and transformed them into an incandescent virtue.

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