Tuesday, April 26, 2011
RIP Poly Styrene
The second icon of woman-powered rebel music to die in the past five days, Poly Styrene died in London yesterday at the age of 53. Singer for X-Ray Spex, one can only wonder what the state of women in punk would be without her. Once again, in a scene dominated mostly by white males, she carved out a place for women of color. Her songs bulged with the kind of sharp-spiky brashness that has since been imitated but never duplicated, lambasting sexism, boredom and consumerism with a lyrical style that could be blunt as well as witty. X-Ray Spex played shows for Rock Against Racism back in the day, including the famed Carnival Against the Nazis in 1978. Though they only recorded one album, its music represented that crucial, all-too-brief time when punk was breaking down all kinds of boundaries and cementing itself as true-blue rebel music. A more thorough obituary is forthcoming, but in the meantime, it's worth acknowledging Poly's substantial contribution to music as we know it.