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As with so many bands that fall under the early "punk" umbrella it is often their first album that is the best.
The nature of the music was right here, right now, so all the energy was usually spent in one explosive album, and that is true of Generation X.
Generation X are best know now as the band that Billy Idol came from and that is such a shame. Derwood and Tony James,guitar and bass player respectively, are equally as responsible for the sound of Generation X as Billy Idols voice was.
By today's standards they may not be considered punk but "back in the day" their releases were as eagerly awaited as the Clash or the Pistols.
This release is the one to have, because as well as having the original album featuring the single Ready Steady Go you also get the singles Your Generation and Wild Youth among the bonus tracks.
Perhaps the gem here is the b'side of Wild Youth,Wild Dub - which as the name suggests is a dub version of the A'side.
A very original idea for a band of white punks !
the only let down is the addition of the 2 b'sides of the Fridays Angel single - the A'side is NOT featured and these 2 tracks are from 1979 when the band had altered musically - these 2 tracks just dont sit right with the rest of the album.
If you want variations on White wedding avoid this album - this is Generation X the BAND not Billy Idol and friends.
This is a decent album in my opinion from a band who in the mid to late 1970`s and early 1980`s produced a punk style that was in your face and real.The lead singer Billy Idol - real name William Albert Broad went onto mediocre solo success and guitarist Tony James went onto from a new wave punk band in the 1980`s called Sigue Sigue Sputnik whose most famous hit was Love Missile.
These kind of songs on album can be considered quite brash and edgy but that was the kind of attitude that Billy Idol brought across
when he came out and performed.I would say the most noteable songs from this album are Wild Youth, Your Generation, Youth Youth Youth and One Hundred Punks.They were in your face kind of songs but they also gave out a message.
They had a potential to be big and often got mentioned in the music papers like NME and Pop Star Weekly but were obviously not a band you wanted to become too mainstream as to weaken their musical rights.
If you have not heard this album or any music by Generation X then I think you should buy this as it is well worth a listen.
One of the more forgotten bands to emerge under the banner of punk, up until recently Generation X were best known for simply being the band that gave Billy Idol and Tony James a springboard to success, with very few people actually able to name many of their tracks beyond Dancing With Myself (which Idol had remixed and released as 'Billy Idol with Generation X' at the beginning of his solo career) and their career relegated to discussions held amongst genre enthusiasts over what was 'real' punk.
See, in their day Generation X were actually quite controversial. Not because of pseudo-political leanings and lyrics, not because of a racist fan-base, but, along with contemporaries like The Vibrators and The Buzzcocks, Generation X came under scrutiny from the 'punk police' who felt they weren't 'real' enough, and they were perhaps a bit too instrumentally sound.
Formed out of members of hilariously indecisive lineup-wise punk stalwarts Chelsea, who were in turn born out of Sex Pistols' followers the Bromley Contingent (which also gave birth to Souxie & The Banshees) and the proto-Clash that was The London SS, Generation X were credited by Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong as being the reason he started a band, a fact that ties in with the often speculated factoid that they may or may not have been responsible for Pop-Punk.
Don't hold that against them though, while the band, comprising of Idol on vocals, James on bass, Mark Laff on drums and Bob 'Derwood' Andrews on guitar, do play some unashamedly straightforward spiky-guitar anthems that depend more on catchy pop hooks than venomous lyrics, the band's 1978 debut album is far from a write-off.
With that said, it's worth noting right from the off you are not going to find musical diversity on Generation X. 3-Chord little rockers that veer perilously close to pop territory with "ooh-oohs" and Top 10-tastic hooks. However, Generation X go about it with a bit more class than your average pop-punk act. There are 2 reasons for this; 1.the band were all musically accomplished. Idol, love or hate his cheese-tastic solo career, has a good singing voice, a far wider range than John Lydon or Joe Strummer. Mark Laff was no slouch on the drums, and once came close to in fact joining The Clash, Andrews was arguably one of the most underrated guitarists ever (not that he was ear bleedingly awesome, but seriously, have you ever heard of Bob 'Derwood' Andrews?) and more than capable of adding some nice solo work the chugged chords that acted as the core of the bands songs and James himself was an excellent guitarist, so transition to the bass was a snitch. 2. This stems out of the latter, and it's the fact that as well as being a good all around musician, Tony James also doubles as a very good songwriter. While Idol claims co-songwriting credit, this is mainly for his lyrics, which I'll get back to in a minute, but it's James' knowledge of which 3-Chords to stick together that stood Generation X in good stead.
Idol's lyrics are a somewhat of a contradiction for me. Don't expect any profound social commentary ala The Clash or The Jam, nor attempts at whipping up controversy ala the Pistols. Idol's lyrical spectrum ranges from girls to basically how great it is to be a punk/young. It's perilously close to Good Charlotte territory, yet at the same time it manages to veer clear of the clichéd ramblings of middle aged Americans pretending to be 15 through sheer enthusiasm and blind, possibly naïve, belief in what's being said. You do genuinely get the feeling Idol doesn't want to be an adult (and if you've seen him these days, he's doing about as good a job as a 50 year old can at acting 20), he believes 100 Punks rule. It's this almost innocent youthfulness that pull the band through some potentially cringe worthy lyrics.
As mentioned, the band basically have one speed; 3-Minute chord shredders poppy enough to sing along to, rocky enough to not be 'pop' with the diversion of obligatory ballad style effort Kiss Me Deadly. When I call it a 'ballad' I don't mean in the traditional, piano-ey sense, I mean it starts on a slow, melodic and melancholy sound before building up to an epic climax. It manages to combine both of Idol's lyrical topics (ie being a punk and his relationship with his, presumably punk, girlfriend) I suppose you could read it as criticising violence amongst youth gangs, but it could be seen as just as much glamorising it. While I wouldn't call it an absolute favourite of mine, it is undeniably good how the chorus builds up.
With the rest of the songs, it basically comes down to how well the songs are written. The best by quite a distance has to be lead single Ready Steady Go. At heart, it's nothing more than a love song, with Idol denouncing Tv,Radio and everything else in favour of a girl. It's backed by what is one of James best tunes in terms of catchiness, and Andrews is at the top of his game in terms of bringing it to life. Idol's vocals are also close to their best on this track, with his undeniable cocky charisma shining through, and him giving his all vocally to bring the track to life. It also highlights the fact that the group weren't afraid to let their influences show, something that would come back to bite the Clash for them taking the 'Ground Zero' punk mentality to heart too much in their early days. Idol declares "I was in love with the Beatles/I was in love with the Stones/no satisfaction/I was in love with Bobby Dylan/cause Im in love with Rock and Roll", this may have got them much derision at the time, but in the long run, it also slaps Bob Geldoff, who constantly claims to be the only person around during punk who had the balls to admit to liking older stuff. Granted in the same interview I read that, the Boomtown Rat's frontman slammed the Clash for being manufactured, yet declared the Sex Pistols were "the real deal". He's lucky this whole charity thing took off, 'cause evidently the only thing worse than his career is his memory of it.
The best of the rest would probably fall between Day By Day and One Hundred Punks. The former is about as close to aggression as the band come, lead by a wonderful drum beat from Laff. The "Oooooh Oohs" could be seen as a precursor to Dancing With Myself from the group's final album, and the somewhat darker tone would probably fit in better there too. This makes it a bit of a standout here, although sadly James wonderful bassline, made evident if you hear demos or the band's Peel Sessions, isn't as prominent as it should be in the mix. When I think about it, I've been a bit harsh on Idol's lyrics, Day By Day actually offers a diversion where he actually does attempt something like social commentary. Mainly to say how mundane day to day life is. Likening it to being stuck on the circle-line. The latter offers a neat nod to the 100 Club, one of the centre points for the UK punk scene and is arguably the premier examples of the band crafting an anthem where basically they sing about how great it is to be punks. Where it earns its place on my favourites list is the aforementioned enthusiasm with which Idol belts out his lyrics, and the fact it's just built around a superior song. An infectious guitar riff, bouncing bassline and nice harmonies all come together in one of James' most successful early compositions.
Other highlights for me include the opening and closing tracks. Album opener From The Heart isn't really all that exceptional besides a really nice opening riff, but it does offer a nice, vibrant and rather catchy little slice of what we can expect from the album. Closer Youth, Youth, Youth is a bit more interesting. While it has some of the more naïve lyrics I alluded to earlier, it has a nice anthemic chanted chorus, as well as a rather enjoyable 2 minute (incredibly un-punk) instrumental breakdown at the end.
Remaining tracks Listen, Kleenex, Promises Promises, The Invisible Man and Too Personal all fall into the one category. None are bad songs, and if it's just some spiky guitar background music you are looking for, they more than suffice to fill in the gaps between the better tracks, but at the same time there really is little to write about them. Pleasant enough little pop-punk ditties, but nothing that will live in the memory longer than their average 3 minute running time.
In summary, Generation X is a solid album. Though only half of its tracks are really worth talking about in any detail, I think that fact there is nothing truly awful on the album, plus the way the tracks are arranged, mixing up the more disposable fare with the better written songs, softens the blow of the less well written tracks.
The current reissue of the album, which can be found for around £5 features the somewhat tacky photoshopping of "featuring BILLY IDOL" under the band's name (as if his face on the front cover didn't give it away) also bolsters itself with 5 bonus tracks, comprising various non-album singles and b-sides. In songs like Wild Youth, Trying For Kicks and the lyrically (unintentionally) hilarious Your Generation these are, in fact, very positive inclusions, and better than most of the album material (hence why they were probably chosen for release. Less stellar are the dub remix of Wild Youth and the rather bland This Heat.
Overall, Generation X is an album that vies somewhere between 3 and 4 out of 5 in my opinion. I did opt for 4, mainly out due to the bonus tracks, and the fact that although it's not an all-time great, at the same time, it is a very enjoyable album. Even during it's more disposable moments, I've never had the urge to reach for the skip button, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of punk, but isn't too caught up in the image and mythology surrounding it to give a chance to one of the less 'accepted' bands.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 From the heart
2 One hundred punks
4 Ready steady go
6 Promises promises
7 Day by day
8 The invisible man
9 Kiss me deadly
10 Too personal
11 Youth youth youth
12 Your generation (bonus track)
13 Wild youth (bonus track)
14 Wild dub (bonus track)
15 Trying for kicks (bonus track)
16 This heat (bonus track)