Poly Styrene: 'Generation Indiglo'

Poly Styrene

Generation Indigo (Future Noise Music)

The sad news about this album is that what started out as a comeback turned out to be a goodbye. Poly Styrene died of cancer last week at the age of 53, the day before Generation Indigo was released in the U.S. The happier news is that it's a pretty good goodbye. Styrene, the leader of X-Ray Spex, was one of the great singers and songwriters of first-wave British punk. Her deconstructions of consumer culture were smart and funny, and the band had tunes and muscle to match. But her output had been spotty for the past 30 years, since a breakdown in her early 20s and a subsequent conversion to Hare Krishna.

Generation Indigo was conceived as a return to form, unlike the New Agey stuff she'd been trafficking in lately, and it delivers. It's an album's worth of catchy tunes, split between spiky electro-pop ("I Luv Ur Sneakers," "Kitsch"), dubby reggae ("Colour Blind"), and garage rock ("White Gold," "Thrash City"). When she gets political she tends toward bleeding-heart mush, but songs like "Ghoulish" and "Electric Blue Monsoon" have some of her old hallucinatory razzmatazz. And she sounds fantastic throughout, her voice bright and sharp as ever. You'd never guess it had been 33 years since "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo." There's nothing here to compete with that or her other classics, but there's plenty to like. And plenty to mourn.