Friday, April 29, 2011

Poly Styrene (1957-2011)

Very sad to hear the news of Poly Styrene's passing from breast cancer on Monday.

While I was in my early 20s I had initially dismissed the importance of her band X-Ray Spex in favour of The Clash and the the Pistols, but I soon realized what a mistake that was. Germ Free Adolescents, the debut album, is just as brilliant and groundbreaking as the early work of the latter two bands, particularly as it appears in 1978, a mere year after punk broke. The album doesn't have a bad track on it, and the band upped the ante for what was possible in punk--in particular transforming the saxophone into a true punk instrument.

Moreover, as a female-fronted band, led by a mixed-race teenager, X-Ray Spex shattered punk's identity as a "white boys club" and her lyrics were both anti-consumerist and feminist. And one can't forget how Poly Styrene changed the visual style and fashion of punk, moving it from safety-pins and scars to the day-glo colours which would be picked up by the New Wave movement several years later.

Three tracks from the aforementioned album below, beginning with "Warrior in Woolworths," a live rendition (a little more sedate than the album version) which nicely showcases Poly's style and political lyrics. I believe some have connected this song to the Italian Autonomia's offshoot group The Metropolitan Indians.

The title track, which shows that it is possible to write a punk ballad. I love Poly's voice in this track; sonorous even as it cracks. Note the awesome day-glo fashion on both the men and women on the album cover.

And of course the inestimable "Oh Bondage Up Yours!"

Oh, bondage no more...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nothing but rabbits...

As is often the case when Easter approaches I find the lyrics to Mission of Burma's "Fame and Fortune" stuck in my head which, as the Canadian election approaches, seems more apropos than ever:

Fame and fortune, fancy that
Nothing but rabbits come out of the hat

Speaking of which, support the Avaaz advertising initiative on the election here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Great website, spear-headed by Now magazine's Alice Klein, for help with strategic voting in the upcoming election here.

I'm in a riding with two extremely progressive candidates, so there's not much danger of a Conservative here (although it's a waste to run two leftists against each other), but there are other tight races which the above site can help with. It's kind of fun to type in past postal codes to see how things are going in old stomping grounds. For example, Kingston (K7K 3T5), where I lived for about seven years, is in danger of going Blue if the progressives split the vote, while my old hometown of Oshawa might be able to go NDP again, returning to its roots as a strong union town.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Return of Captain Poetry

Most people who know me can guess how I feel about the current election race and Stephen Harper's rapidly increasing disdain for public accountability and democratic process (see, I resisted saying proto-fascism...)

And what I think about boot-licking apologists like Michael Lista (no, I won't link to him).

And how depressed I am about union-busting in Ohio.

So I'll try and be positive this week and mention how overjoyed I was, while meeting with Jay MillAr today, to take a first flip through The Captain Poetry Poems Complete!

Like the re-issue of Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer a few years ago by Coach House, this new re-issue of bpNichol's poems by Bookthug is exacting in its reproduction and beautiful in its design. We are at last granted a legible and corrected version of Nichol's early Captain Poetry sequence (originally issued by blewointment press in 1970), as well as out-takes and drafts, visual sequences published elsewhere that feature Captain Poetry, poetic statements by Nichol on Captain Poetry, and an afterword by original publisher bill bissett (subscribers to Bookthug also get a chapbook essay by George Bowering on Captain Poetry).

A pure delight in these dark days....

Ordering info here.