Generation X, though not a band for very long, were an important punk band that came out of the British punk explosion in the mid to late seventies in the UK. They formed in the fall of 1976 after the demise of the band Chelsea. After some lineup adjustments, the bands official line up was complete with Billy Idol (before he was a pop icon) on vocals, Bob Andrews on guitar, Tony James on bass and drummer Mark Laff. The band played its first gig on December of the same year at the famous The Roxy in London, although original drummer John Towe played the first gig and left soon onwards. The band’s name was taken, not directly the time period, but from the 1964 novel of the same name. Gen X didn’t release any albums in 1977 like many other punk debuts, but had their first tour that year and were signed to Chrysalis Records. The following year, before releasing their debut album, they played an important and historical punk event, the ‘Rock Against Racism’ concert with bands such as The Clash, X-Ray Spex and Buzzcocks. They were also the first band of its kind to appear on ‘Top of the Pops', which differentiated them from many of their counterparts at the time, which goes towards their influence on pop punk as well.
The bands debut self titled was the first of the two albums the band released while they were together, the other being Valley of the Dolls
in 1979, although a third album was released in 1981 titled Kiss Me Deadly
as ‘GenX’ before the bands breakup but with only Idol and James remaining from the classic lineup. This here is the UK version of the bands first album, as a US version was also available with a slightly altered song listing and a substitute of three different tracks. A recent remastered re-issue of the album was released that includes the full album listed here, as well as five bonus tracks of singles and b-sides not that were not included on any other albums. Though this album here is the original LP with the original eleven songs.
Generation X contrasted in ways with many of the bands around them at the time that were deemed similar to. They didn’t have the aggressive and chaotic sound of The Sex Pistols, the foot-ball chanting choruses of Sham 69 or the political intellect of The Clash. However they did possess the simple instrumentation that many of the bands used, but with a much more refined and clean sound to it. They, along with the Buzzcocks (who they sounded more similar to then the previous bands mentioned), are regularly credited as being pioneers of the pop-punk genre. Their cleaner sound, more focused vocals, and harmless look even saw them back then as being the poppier of the emerging bands. And with Bill Idol’s post-Generation X career, the pop sensibilities would explain a lot. But that’s not to say they can’t play some good straight forward punk songs. The bands lyrics do not centre on one particular idea. There is not a direct political song here or one about current events or problems, something very common with punk bands then and now. But the subject seems set on singing about 'the generation', present not only the band name itself, but in song titles such as Youth Youth Youth
, One Hundred Punks
as well as bonus tracks Wild Youth
and Your Generation
(both on the US version).
The vocals here can most likely be recognized by those who haven’t heard a song by the band. Anyone who has heard a Billy Idol song can get a grasp of what he songs like here; but a slightly rawer, though not overly raw sound. One thing that came as a positive factor of having a cleaner sound is that the songs seem to flow better and are more comprehensive and cohesive in the sense that the lyrics sound clearer and the instruments as well. I don’t mind a raw and under produced sound, but when the opposite is done correctly, it can be good as well. The guitar, for the majority, is made up of power chords with fast transitions. Andrews does a solid job and they are used quite well here, best displayed on songs like Day By Day
. Tony James is a good bassist, but tends to be overshadowed at times but has his moments that shine though in on the odd song. Drummer Mark Laff does give a very good performance on the album, and shows some of his best work on such as The Invisible Man
, where he gets a small solo.
Diversity isn’t a strong factor in the album, as many songs do have the same feel to them and with a first listen; some might be unable in separating a certain song to another. However, there are the obvious standouts. One of the bands most notable songs, Kiss Me Deadly
, is a standout, mostly due to the fact that it’s basically a ballad, and a good one too. At over four minutes, it gradually changes from a slow song with light vocals over some chords until retaining the bands key sound. Ready Steady Go
, a single released, is a signature song for the band and captures many of the bands key aspects. A simple, upbeat, power chord driven energy song is an easy way of putting it and it serves as a pleasant highlight. Promises Promises
is one that sticks out which could be because of the songs length at over five minutes.
Generation X’s debut album is a solid punk album, and can be enjoyed by fans of pop punk, classic punk, or punk in general. It is a representation of the era and was an important album, even if it is underrated. It’s the band launched the career of Billy Idol, who would as many know go on to become a pop star with commercial success in America, which to some could ruin any punk credibility, but shouldn’t. And if you are not a fan of Idol’s solo material, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t like this.