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London Camden Dublin Castle
Oct 2017
Live Review
The late and great Poly Styrene was one of the most distinctive and powerful voices to come out of punk rock.

With her combination of idiosyncratic and highly original image, her distinctive voice and sax-driven songs, that were a vehicle for her brilliant lyrics, her brief and intermittent career saw her leave a train of brilliant words that told of a future that we are now drowning in.

Her sad death a few years ago, on the verge of a comeback, left a huge hole in pop culture so it’s only fitting that every year Polyfest remembers her.

Poly meant many things to many different people so the eclectic bill for this event is an interesting reflection of her life. From punk veterans to dance music divas to showbiz legends like Anita Harris and Ricky Vallance singing a duet of Peters and Lee’s Welcome Home to Ricky’s own version of his one big hit Tell Laura I Love Her it’s a bizarre and brilliant evening.

There is the brilliant acidic beat poetry of Bruno from the Homosexuals – a close friend of Poly’s – whose combative art and searing wordplay is a reminder of the true spirit of punk rock whilst You The Living emerge from their bedsit for a powerful set of dark-hearted neo-goth rushes with their new band member and former Bow Wow Wow genius sticksman, Dave Barbarossa on drums. Members mainstay JC Carroll brings his acoustic guitar for a rousing version of Solitary Confinement and Sound Of The Suburbs and a rather accidentally touching version of Edith Piaf’s 1959 classic Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Jennie from the Belle Stars takes to the stage intermittently to unleash her powerful voice and the Shakespearos deal out tough and tight pub rock. Former Sub Sub singer Melanie Williams is aided by Mancunian drum legend, Funky Si Wolstencroft whilst Knox from The Vibrators is coaxed from his second-hand shop next door to finally get back on stage after a couple of years to deal out a micro set of Velvets smooth larynx takes on early punk with the band’s debut Baby Baby single getting a mass singalong.

The room is now packed for Youth/Jah Wobble/Intastella working their way through the bass dub-heavy songs from the recent Stella album ‘Rise Of Northern Star’ with the Mancunian singer’s croaking, lived in voice, brilliantly full of the ups and downs of life whilst Youth deals out the smokey drones of the harmonium and Wobble lays out his eternal bass genius filling the room with the dub-heavy before the night ends with Dr And the Medics rousing reappraisal of their much loved glamogoth psyche set.

A much-loved event it would be great to see it in the Roundhouse next year and maybe a bit more Poly in the vent – with more covers and idiosyncratic takes on her much loved songs…

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I checked this. Was ok. But shakesperoes were the most fitting stella Grundy was cosmic and really great was homosexuals and Jc carol came from Salford. It was great


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