Saturday, July 3, 2010

Musical Memory Lane: X-Ray Spex

Few punk bands had the tenacious tone of X-Ray Spex. Dirty, raw and shrill, they blew my mind when I first heard "Oh Bondage, Up Yours" on a punk compilation album in late 1995. The thing that got be about "Bondage" was the honking sax. Who puts saxophone in punk music? And bad, poorly performed sax at that; but that was the mystic of it. It was phenomenal because it was so bad.

I had to have more. Immediately. I was able to locate their 1995 sophomore release Conscious Consumer easily, but it was too new wavey, too modern. It reeked of reunion album, as it should - it was.

While I was on the internet in 1995, most people weren't and finding their vintage albums took quite some work. Camelot be damned, I got to know the guys at Record Den in Great Lakes Mall pretty good.

Eventually I got their debut release, Germ Free Adolescents on CD and I was hooked. Raw, visceral and discordant; they were amazing. More so than the raucous Sex Pistols or the gentile Clash, the embodied the UK punk movement to me.

At this time, I was exploring music at a voracious rate and amassing a collection that would have impressed Rob Gordon. By 1996 the pop punk movement had reached a pinnacle of success; I couldn't stand the sound of Billie Joe chugging away on a happy power chord yapping on about how there was nothing to watch on TV.

Even more annoying were the throngs of Green Day, Offspring and Rancid (the most vile of them all) fans declaring their allegiance as "punks". And they called me the poser for talking about X-Ray or the New York Dolls. My interest in punk music as a whole began to wain, as I was tired of constantly being counter-sold on such mockery.

When it was time to pack for college, all of my music got packed up and shipped - something that didn't happen when I moved back home. Quite a number of amazing things had gotten lost in the shuffle. And so now, not quite 15 years after originally discovering X-Ray Spex, I am happy to have spent a week rediscovering them.