In 2016, 5 a number of years quickly after the demise of Poly Styrene—the punk legend and trailblazing frontwoman of the quick-lived however fiercely beloved band X-Ray Spex—her daughter, Celeste Bell, final however not least acquired the stacks of containers from Styrene’s former supervisor that made up her archive. “It was usually my mom’s visible art work and poems and diary entries,” Bell remembers. “However really, that archive was the genesis of each little factor.”
By “all the pieces,” Bell suggests the continuing job she’s carried out contemplating that that yr to rejoice her mom’s outstanding legacy. Initially, there was the 2019 information she edited with songs writer Zoë Howe, titled Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story and now there’s the documentary Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, codirected with filmmaker Paul Sng and launched in choose theaters at present. “I didn’t understand how vital it was proper till I began off to in truth organize it and set all the pieces collectively and technique it from a historic standpoint,” Bell proceeds. “The e-book arrived initially, however the movie manufactured sense primarily as a result of there was simply so considerably plentiful visible substance.”
The movie is a riotous ode to a musician who broke boundaries in much more means than one. Certainly, there’s her enduring legacy as a musician, with a lineup of icons from an outstanding choice of genres—Neneh Cherry, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and even designer Vivienne Westwood—extolling the importance of Styrene inside simply the punk movement and her impression on their very personal sound. “We did wish to do some factor far more cinematic and poetic and maybe unconventional, becoming in with my mom’s identification and what she was about,” suggests Bell of the dedication to have them determine as voiceovers, with Styrene’s diaries narrated by the Oscar-nominated actor Ruth Negga. “I think about it was the proper choice.”
Furthermore receiving to hearken to from these who understood Styrene presumably previous to Bell was born or all through the years once they had been estranged, in constructing the movie Bell additionally validated her perception that her mother was a real pioneer. “You simply actually really feel this big feeling of satisfaction and gratitude that there’s so significantly goodwill and that there are so fairly a couple of folks immediately who’ve this type of fantastic issues to say about my mom. I’m sure there have been being some folks immediately who thought she was a nightmare—and she or he was a nightmare, I do know that,” Bell offers, laughing. “However the easy undeniable fact that, at the same time as exhausting as she may very well be and as creative folks immediately usually are, there was simply this type of an outpouring of like from the individuals that we interviewed was unbelievable.”
Styrene’s story can be properly timed for the way she navigated points inside simply the brand new music subject which have on no account gone away, from racism and misogyny to the best way she was later sidelined and belittled as a finish results of her struggles with psychological total well being. Rising through the political turbulence of Thatcher-period Britain, when the doing work class was broadly demonized by each equally politicians and the media, Styrene wore her standing as a self-explained “abnormal robust child from an abnormal difficult avenue” as a badge of satisfaction. “Some women and men really feel minor girls actually ought to be noticed and never learn / However I assume, ‘Oh bondage, up yours!’” she sang with proto-riot-grrrl ferocity on her most well-known strike, the explosive “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” from 1977. The maintain monitor of might clock in at simply 2 minutes and 45 seconds, however 4 a few years in a while her defiant angle feels as pertinent as ever.