A bad X-Ray Spex cover reinforces the original’s inimitable appeal
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In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
My introduction to X-Ray Spex was perhaps the least “authentic” imaginable: via a college lit course titled Post-Punk British Culture. (Unless you count the sample from “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” that my local modern-rock station used in its promo bumpers while I was growing up, which is even lamer.) But my love for the group’s debut, Germfree Adolescents, was instant and enduring, and if the fact that I found it via a syllabus makes me a poseur, well, I don’t care. But my love of that record is genuine and deep enough that I admit feeling a slight pang of indignant outrage upon encountering Kate Nash’s airless 2012 cover of “Warrior In Woolworths,” even though I generally think getting mad about covers—or any song, for that matter—is pretty silly. It’s not that I don’t like Nash, or that I begrudge her for covering a kickass song, but her version strips all the fun out of “Warrior,” with Nash turning in a listless impression of the admittedly inimitable Poly Styrene, and, most egregiously, subbing out X-Ray Spex’s signature squawking saxophone for a guitar and weird spoken-word overdub. Really, the only nice thing I can say about it is it reinforces how great the original is, with its memorable bass riff chugging underneath Styrene at her most sweetly acidic—not to mention that aforementioned saxophone line. The original is a love-at-first-listen kind of song, and if that means it’s ruined me for other versions, I’m totally fine with that.