Sunday 10 September 2023

Styrenes 70s Singles

Poli Styrene Jass Band - Draino In Your Veins (1975)
This was really something. What on earth was it? It's like a blueprint for something that nobody ever bothered to follow up on. I mean you can hear hints of Roxy Music and misc. prog but what is the rest? Psychedelic soul? This is the sort of amalgamation of non-overt influences that also informed Television, Pere Ubu etc. I really think Draino In Your Veins is a forgotten little psych-prog anomaly of a pop song that deserves to be heard.


Poli Styrene Jass Band - Circus Highlights (1975)
This is the flipside to Draino In Your Veins. It's that classic in-between scenes syndrome innit: Too late for 60s psych into prog, not quite fitting mid 70s art rock and way too early for neo-psychedelia of the 80s and 90s. Melodically reverse-reminiscent of early Mercury Rev. If this incarnation had carried on in the maverick vein of this 7 inch they might have become legendary like their contemporaries Pere Ubu and electric eels instead of just a footnote.

Styrene Money - Radial Arm Saws (1977)
Weird for weird's sake maybe but these guys were compelled to make such a record surely that counts for something. Is it a paean to naff novelty faux-psychedelic cash in singles of the late 60s?

Styrene Money - I Saw You (1979) 
Sounding almost conventional here, even endearing but I guess not many punk groups had piano led singles. It's actually more psychedelic than anything. This is why genre categories are pointless sometimes. Did the genre people ever use psych-punk as a term for this kind of thing? I Saw You is psychedelic and punk. 

Styrene Money - Everything Near Me (1979)
Another sort of likeable slice of music that is at the precise intersection of psychedelic and punk. I guess not unlike some stuff The Homosexuals did.

Styrene Money - Jaguar Ride (1979)
The first Styrenes thing I heard back in the day because it was on an 80s Cleveland compilation. This is supposed to be a cover of the electric eels tune but it barely even resembles that song. It strangely actually sounds closer to Pere Ubu. I wonder if they just played this by memory considering there were no actual recordings of the electric eels version available at the time. 


  1. If I had to guess, I would venture that the Poli Styrene Jass Band might have been fans of Soft Machine / Kevin Ayers / Hatfield and the North / Caravan - but also possibly Supersister

    Apparently there was a FM station in Cleveland that was unusually Anglophile and prog-friendly and would play things like Van Der Graaf Generator

  2. Yeah Kevin Ayers.

    I tend to forget that he is a direct and very obvious influence on Bryan Ferry/Eno/Roxy Music. In fact it's rarely even acknowledged. A quick glance at the sorry state of internet music resources reveals wikipedia and allmusic don't list him as an influence.

    On a tangent, does the aforementioned sorry state of the information contained within these resources concern you?

    If you were a youngster getting into music and mainly using those two resources I think you would end up with a very wrong end of the rock history stick.

    1. The thing that concerns me is not so much the information being inaccurate (it's probably better on that front than the days of print journalism where you would get a lot of errors and myths and factoids), because there's always going to be wrong ideas, exaggerations, etc propagated, and things that are missing.

      What concerns me, or more like, it's something that I've noticed, which is a side effect of the internet, is how chronology gets flattened. So the sequence that things happened in - who was first to do something, or how something was a response to an earlier thing - which is vital to actually understanding how things went down... it all kind of gets mushed in this atemporal soup.

      Conversely, when you are tracking an individual artist's career, that is easy to follow chronologically on the internet - but it's quite hard to establish the context for that artist and a particular album. All the other things that were going on at that exact moment. That's why I find old print magazines and music papers so fascinating and valuable - it's like a cross section of that month or that week and you see all the simultaneous bustle of the music scene, plus all the things that are happening in culture, entertainment, politics etc

      There's a podcast that tries to reconstruct that, the Chart Music thing with Melody Maker veterans talking. They'll spend 4 or more hours on a single episode of Top of the Pops, but the first hour will entirely be devoted to what was in the Radio Times and TV Times that week, current affairs...