Generation X - Generation X (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Generation X

Generation X (1978)


As far as '80s pop singers go, Billy Idol was supposed to be the dangerous one. Prince was the artist, Madonna was the sex object, Cyndi Lauper was the quirky girl, Michael Jackson wrote m.f.-ing Thriller. But Idol, man, that guy was badass. He wore leather and had spiky hair! Swoon! He was like the pop star version of a punk rocker.

Which is fitting since before he became a solo sensation, Idol was in a pop punk band called Generation X. If Idol was too punk for the pop singers, then he was too much of a pop singer for the punks. After three underappreciated records, Idol split from the group to find solo success (One of his early hits, "Dancing With Myself," was originally a Gen-X tune too). All of this is a shame, though, as the Gen-X discography is actually pretty good.

Generation X veers more towards the pop spectrum than most British punk bands were doing at the time, thankfully. In fact, the U.S. version of the album opens with a cover of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth." Then again, Lennon was Joe Strummer's favorite Beatle, so maybe it's not that surprising of a cover choice. Either way, the band does a great job with the tune, lending a little bit of a sneer to Lennon's lyrics. Other tracks, like "Wild Dub" and "Kiss Me Deadly," toy with what punk could be despite its quickly codifying philosophy.

Still, though, Generation X has a few strikes against it. Like Idol himself, the record is divided between what it wants to be. Its greatest crime in the '70s was sounding professionally arranged. But some of these tunes drop the punk card constantly, to the point that it gets kind of annoying. Punk songs about being totally punk only go so far.

But while some of the songs are a little pandering, it's still an excellent slab of pop-punk (and "One Hundred Punks" is a better up the punx anthem than anything the Casualties ever did). Although Generation X probably wouldn't even be discussed nowadays were it not for Idol's later fame, the band really does deserve a spot in the punk rock canon. Generation X, as well as its follow-up Valley of the Dolls, is a stellar pop-punk release.