A British punk unit whose thoughtful explorations of issues of sexuality and gender conflicts presaged the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s, the Poison Girls
were actually a male backing band formed around a singer and guitar player calling herself Vi Subversa
. Released in 1979, the Girls
' debut, Hex
, was produced by Crass
drummer Penny Rimbaud
, as was the following year's Chappaquiddick Bridge
. While the guitar-based music on both records was fairly subtle, Subversa
's lyrics were anything but, tackling issues of politics, normalcy, romance, and feminism with fury and intelligence.
After releasing Total Exposure
, a stopgap live album recorded in Scotland in mid-1981, the Poison Girls
returned in 1982 with a newly skilled and sophisticated sound on Where's the Pleasure
, which found Subversa
streamlining her material to focus solely on the subject of sex. By the 1983 EP I'm Not a Real Woman
, the band had virtually abandoned its punk roots in favor of Celtic folk singing and cabaret-styled pop; 1985's Songs of Praise
even found elements of funk creeping into the mix.
In the late '80s, the Poison Girls
called it quits. A four-CD retrospective, Statement: The Complete Recordings 1977-1989
, was issued in 1996.