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Music DVD Review

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X-Ray Spex Live @ The Roundhouse London 2008 (CD & DVD)


Artist: X-Ray Spex
Year Zero
RRP: £16.99
Available 09 November 2009

X-Ray Spex not only provided punk with a female voice and female perspective, the band also added humour and colour to a scene that was often very monochrome and ‘blokey’. Singer Poly Styrene and sax player Laura Logic were the hub of the band - the male trio of bass, guitar and drums were, let’s say, pedestrian, but their lumpen slabs of sound were easily countered by their female companions’ ‘alternative’ perspective. And the result was often fantastic, rising above X-Ray Spex’s musical limitations.

After just one album and a handful of fabulous singles the group, which was born in 1976, disbanded after a UK tour in 1979, leaving fans wanting more - a perfect career for a near perfect band...

Fast forward to 2008 and the band played London’s Roundhouse - well, Poly and the bass player were there along with some new hired hands, including a sax player in a suit! And this CD and DVD pairing is the record of that event.

Did the band play well? Yes. Did they capture the urgency of the X-Ray Spex of old? Almost? But in the end it’s hard to see the point of the reunion. ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’ which starts the set reveals just one thing - live recording techniques have come on a long way since 1977. Poly never sounded this clear back in the day at The George Robey or The Hope and Anchor. Again - so what?

Punk, as a live experience, was never about a perfect performance captured perfectly - it was about passion and energy and the white heat of the moment. Sadly, none of these ingredients are present. It’s not that this gig is bad - it’s just that there’s no point to it. Punk spat in the face of nostalgia - “No more Beatles or Rolling Stone,” sang The Clash, and that was the way it was meant to be.

As a result, X-Ray Spex Live @ The Roundhouse 2008 is nothing more than a memento of that one evening. It speaks of nothing that launched punk [and Poly] and actually comes close to being a betrayal of the very thing that made punk such a vital musical force, its disrespect for the past.

The CD/DVD package is released on the ironically named Year Zero records but in fact this owes more to the Freddy and the Dreamers end of the pier nostalgia shows than a clean start.

The first time around X-Ray Spex called it a day at just the right moment. It should have stayed that way. Sorry Poly…


Anthony Clark

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