A pop dance album par excellence bristling with positivity, tunes and ideas.
John Doran 2011
While even a casual glance at any current interviews with the former X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene will reveal that she is currently fighting against cancer, it should be said right from the start that this album would be regarded as an unqualified success regardless of her health. If anything it sounds like she pushed herself even harder than usual, and is only concentrating on getting better now that she has this album out of the way. Her choice of producer Youth, the Killing Joke bassist and Paul McCartney collaborator, would back this theory up as he is a notoriously hard task master. In fact his first instruction to her, when she turned up at his Spanish studio with a clutch of 15 songs, was for her to leave again and come back with five new ones, with even more hooks.
Her background as one of the authors of Oh Bondage, Up Yours! and Youth’s as one of the authors of Requiem might suggest that Poly has returned to her punk roots, but nothing could be further from the truth. I Luv Ur Sneakers acknowledges her influence on the likes of Beth Ditto of Gossip and Tahita Bulmer of New Young Pony Club by indulging in some lolloping elastic disco punk that calls to mind the Soulwax remix of Standing in the Way of Control, or NYPC’s own Ice Cream. But while some elder statesmen of punk can often appear ridiculously out of date or out of touch when they try to engage with dance culture (John Lydon’s Psycho’s Path of 1997 springs to mind), the diminutive but evergreen singer seems as youthful as she always has.
What is truly amazing about Poly Styrene is that, despite being at the cutting edge of one of the most militantly nihilistic musical genres of the last 40 years and being subject to some viciously unfair cards dealt by the hand of fate in the terms of mental and physical health, she has always remained an exemplar of positivity. While her utter chipperness on tracks such as No Rockefeller (which sounds disarmingly like a cross between the Rastamouse theme music and M.I.A.’s Paper Planes) will be too much for some dark-hearted souls, her enthusiasm is undeniably infectious. Elsewhere, on Ghoulish, she revisits the proto-shoegaze (tempered with highlife) territory carved out by Cocteau Twins and Altered Images.
This is a pop dance album par excellence bristling with positivity, tunes and ideas. Here’s wishing her a speedy and full recovery.