četvrtak, 27. prosinca 2012.

Viv Albertine - The Vermilion Border (2012)

Povratak gitaristice punk grupe The Slits. Neka čudna dječja naivnost i duhovita jednostavnost. Sve kao da je snimljeno prije kojih 40 godina, čak ne u sobi, nego u hodniku. Svaka pjesma kao da je sastavljena od svog raspadanja na prelasku iz hodnika u kupaonicu.


After twenty five years away from music, influential guitarist and songwriter, Viv Albertine, releases her first solo album ?The Vermilion Border? - out 5th November 2012 through Cadiz Music.
The album features a renowned bass player on each track, and even reunites Viv with Mick Jones of The Clash, who plays guitar on ?Confessions of a MILF?.
Viv?s former group, The Slits, were one of the first bands within the ?Punk? era to draw on - and tour with - different musical genres, and filter them through their music, especially reggae, improvised jazz and free improvisation. The band are considered to be the forerunners of ?post punk? and the riot grrrl movements and they - and Viv?s guitar playing - have also been cited as an influence on many bands as diverse as Gang of Four, Sonic Youth, The Beastie Boys, Tricky and Massive Attack, to new bands such as Chapter 24 and Warpaint.
Because Viv picked up her Telecaster again in 2007, her 17 year marriage imploded. During the following years she played live, wrote songs and recorded a 4 track EP called ?Flesh? - released on Thurston Moore?s Ecstatic Peace label. Touring the UK, Viv teamed up with different musicians and began to record again.
Viv says of the experience: ?I was very bold. I met musicians as I went along and asked them to come and play. I didn?t know anyone anymore. I just had to work on instinct, if I liked them, I assumed they would be right. And they always were. It was the most fun and exhilarating time of my life. No rules, just the songs and the musicians.?

With ?The Vermilion Border? (a biological term for the border between the reddish skin of the lip and the more regular skin of the face), Viv is documenting a border crossing in different ways: from the safety of domesticity to the uncertainty of life as an artist; away from the comfort and bustle of family life, towards solitude and introspection. And even the juxtaposition of the featured bass players with her signature trebly guitar-playing is the meeting of two distinct planes.
Throughout this exploration, she always has the goal of personal freedom and self expression in her sights. The songs tell a story - with humour and fighting spirit - beginning with anger, moving through disillusionment and finally, at the end of the record, arriving at a breakthrough where she regains her ability to see beauty in the world again.
The featured players are; Jack Bruce (Cream), Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Wayne Nunes (Tricky), Glen Matlock (The Sex Pistols), Richard Pike (PVT - Warp Records), Dennis Bovell, Norman Watt Roy (Blockheads, Wilko), Danny Thompson (Nick Drake, John Martyn, Pentangle).  -

About halfway through "Shoplifting", the shortest track on the Slits' landmark 1979 album Cut, Ari Up unleashes one of the most spine-tingling screams in punk history. Until that moment the song has a mischievous air: Viv Albertine palm-mutes an off-kilter chord progression, Palmolive's beat lurches in fits and starts, and Up muffles a shit-eating grin as she whispers to her co-conspirators, "Put the cheddar in the pocket, put the rest under the jacket. Talk to the cashier, he won't suspect." It's a song about punking the system in order to eat ("Babylonian won't lose much/And we'll have dinner tonight"), but it's also a revolt against villains more pervasive than the corner store cashier: the false promises of dole-dependent England, the stereotypical norms of femininity, and the stifling conventions of the late-1970s musical establishment. Up, with her defiant scream, leads a gleefully liberating getaway.
Though Up was arguably the most outspoken Slit, guitarist Viv Albertine was responsible for the jouncing upstrokes that characterized the group's sound. Albertine's anarchic collision of reggae rhythms and abrasive noise made her one of the more innovative guitarists of punk's first wave. Still, while their friends in the Clash and the Sex Pistols were embracing the idea of beaming their subversive messages to the masses, the Slits kept it resolutely uncommercial. (Though it almost surely would have been a hit, they refused to release their terrific cover of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" as their debut single.) Admirable as these DIY instincts are, it's a tiny tragedy of rock history that a song about Viv Albertine (her remote, railway-accessible home + a jilted ex named Mick Jones = "Train in Vain") is much more widely known than any song she ever wrote (she composed, among others, the Slits' sardonic anthem "Typical Girls"). It's a much bigger tragedy, though, that after the Slits disbanded, Albertine claims she didn't touch her Telecaster for 25 years.
But after the Slits' mid-aughts reunion (which was cut short by Up's untimely death a few years later) Albertine started writing again. "It was like an avalanche," she recalled in a 2010 interview, "I became like a teenage boy, who had to be in his room playing every day... It was quite strange for a woman of a certain age to feel like this [but] I realized I hadn't known what was going on in myself until it all came flying out from the guitar." The result of this outpouring of creativity was Albertine's highly personal Flesh EP, released in 2010 on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label. Softer and more vulnerable than her work in the Slits, Albertine's solo work tackles themes of love, marriage, and disillusionment with equal parts humor and pathos. And though her solo debut (coming 33 years after Cut), The Vermillion Border improves upon the EP in almost every way, it's still shot through with the same sense of urgency. True to her first band's uncommercial instincts, it sounds like the work of somebody who picked her guitar back up simply because she had something she needed to say.
Like "Shoplifting", "Confessions of a MILF", the best song on the album, ping-pongs between repression and release. Documenting an unhappy housewife's inner voice, Albertine whispers the verses' exaggeratedly saccharine melody ("I've peeled the potatoes, there's not much left to do/ Lovely lemon drizzle cake, heat up the fondue") like a Stepford Wife singing an Oompah Loompah parable. But the longer the song goes on, the more its undercurrent of darkness bubbles to the surface. By its finale, a warping, manically chanted refrain of "There's no place like home," the song becomes reminiscent of Sleater-Kinney's "Modern Girl", a quietly dystopian dream to choked to death on its own fairy dust. Unlike "Shoplifting", though, it never provides that moment of catharsis. But its hush only adds to the song's unsettling power. "MILF" is an updated take on an idea the Slits always embodied: Punk isn't necessarily about making the loudest noise, but giving breath to the most radical, surprising, and unspoken truths.
Though it doesn't reach the same heights, Vermillion Border at times recalls Marianne Faithfull's mid-career, middle-age masterpiece Broken English. Not every critique is as much of a direct hit as "MILF"; songs like "The False Heart" and "The Madness of Clouds" ramble on with variations of themes explored more compellingly elsewhere. But thankfully her wit returns on the hilariously biting "Hookup Girl". A fairytale of modern courtship ("I was his forever girl/ Now he's asking me to be his hookup girl"), it first seems like the song's narrator has it better than the miserably repressed self-proclaimed MILF. But instead, the song unfurls a provocative question: Is hookup culture liberating, or just another gilded cage? Albertine's narrator would probably say the latter: As the affair corrodes into boring sex, she finds herself sighing a lyric that could have been lifted from "MILF": "We don't talk, he doesn't want to know my thoughts."
A fiery, irreverent teenager herself when she arrived on the London scene, Albertine knows better than anybody that punk has always been the province of the young (and young men in particular). So even when The Vermillion Border occasionally ambles and falls short, there's still something kinetic and refreshingly subversive about its biting, wizened, and uncompromisingly feminist voice. Nowhere is this felt more viscerally than on the opening track, where over a seething swirl of guitars, Albertine shouts a simple rallying cry, "I want more!" It's an affirmation from, in Albertine's words, a woman of a certain age who sometimes still feels (and shreds) like a teenage boy. - Lindsay Zoladz

It’s been a long time coming, but after 25 years away from music, former The Slits guitarist Viv Albertine returns with her debut solo album, entitled The Vermilion Border. Yet what makes Albertine’s return even more remarkable, is the fact that she avoided playing guitar altogether after her influential all-female punk band disbanded in 1982. Instead, the Australian-born guitarist spent her time studying film making in London, before working as a director throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s.
But after freelance directing stints with the BBC and British Film Institute, Albertine picked up the guitar again on the back of The Slits’ 2005 reunion and started feverishly writing new solo material. This period of creativity led her to begin recording and showcasing her new songs around London in 2009. Albertine’s return to music was cemented by the release of a taster four-track EP, called Flesh, in 2010. And it was this EP which, in many ways, laid the groundwork for what was to come on her debut full-length album.
While the EP retained the unflinching attitude and obtuseness towards commercialism that set The Slits apart in the '70s, Albertine’s first solo material demonstrated a much more personal perspective. It is something that is clearly present again on her debut LP, no more so than on the unnerving Confessions Of A Milf. It sees Albertine team up with former partner Mick Jones of The Clash and catalogues the trials and tribulations of a disillusioned housewife. “A man needs a maid, a maid of his own/ in his home, home sweet home,” sings Albertine, with a sense of distaste.
The same sardonic attitude is also infused in the album’s uncomfortable and jagged opener, I Want More. Albertine’s commanding - albeit strange - vocal combines with razor sharp guitars seamlessly on a song that undoubtedly provides a strong statement of intent to kick off the record. Hookup Girl is another lyrically cutting track - continuing the theme of bitterness that was present on Confessions Of A Milf. However, Hookup Girl’s strengths lie in the disarmingly pretty melody that provides the basis for Albertine’s comically modern tale of romance, as she sings: “In another town you would be a whore/ but in North London you are just a bore/ if you won’t, hook up like you did before.”
The frenetic opening pace of The Vermilion Border does begin to wane as the album progresses, though, with Albertine moving away from the angular riffs that dominated the first few songs on the LP. Becalmed (I Should Have Known) is an atmospheric, slow-burner, which rests on a continuous thumping beat, while the dreamy - but all too forgettable - The Madness Of Clouds drifts along harmlessly. Elsewhere, the creeping and eerie guitar riffs of The False Heart and When It Was Nice show exactly why Albertine and The Slits were such a big influence on acts such as Sonic Youth and more recently, Warpaint.
After spending over two decades away from music, The Vermilion Border is a strong return from Viv Albertine. While her debut solo album is not instant, it only takes a few listens to realise that Albertine still possesses the raw talent as a songwriter and guitarist to continue to make a mark on the music industry. It’s by no means perfect, but The Vermilion Border is frantic and captures some of the emotions that Albertine went through during the breakdown of her 17-year marriage. On this evidence, there is still much more to come - let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 25 years to hear it. - Andy Baber

Somewhere between motherhood and a club tour, former The Slits guitarist Viv Albertine returned to the fold with her first solo album, after twenty-five years away from the music industry. Her debut title, The Vermillion Border is a term to describe the pink between your lips and your skin, sexy, post-divorce relations not-so-much.
Viv Albertine chose to use a different guest bassist on each track of the album, kicking off with the electro track ‘I Want More’. She freely admits her music was adapted to their style which explains the dream-pop ‘The Madness of Clouds’ featuring Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint). The collaborations cause some breaks in the continuity and it feels like she’s still experimenting with her sound.
There are moments of humour when Albertine asserts her atheism in ‘Don’t Believe’ and chants “He’s neither here nor there”. She’s also witty and relevant in ‘Hookup Girl’ which explores returning to singledom after marriage, opening with “In another town, / You would be a whore, / But in North London you are just a bore, / If you won’t, / Hookup like you did before”, nowadays we’re all prudes in the capital.
The vocals feel dated from The Slits talk-rapping to girlish breathy singing. Songs remain heavily autobiographical and address the trappings of modern womanhood. The banality of middle class suburgatory in ‘Confessions of a MILF’ features The Clash’s Mick Jones. Ignoring the self-indulgent title, you can sympathise with escaping from Ikea clad obscurity but who can get hedonistic escapism from interior design and chores.
The finale ‘Still England’ lists the quintessentially British but where Viv Albertine’s name fits, between the historical culture and dubstep, is still a mystery. You can see the intent but it’s difficult to grasp who she is aiming towards, when most middle aged women are busy buying up Michael Bublé. - Serena Doherty 

VIV Albertine makes a long overdue return to the music scene with her first solo album, The Vermilion Border, and generally impresses.
Viv’s former group, The Slits, were one of the first bands within the ‘Punk’ era to draw on – and tour with – different musical genres, and filter them through their music, especially reggae, improvised jazz and free improvisation.
The band are considered to be the forerunners of ‘post punk’ and the riot grrrl movements and they – and Viv’s guitar playing – have also been cited as an influence on many bands as diverse as Gang of Four, Sonic Youth, The Beastie Boys, Tricky and Massive Attack, to new bands such as Chapter 24 and Warpaint.
Given her reputation within industry circles, it’s little wonder that she was able to count on some impressive collaborative support to successfully pull off the main idea behind her latest work… namely, to feature a renowned bass player on every track.
The ensuing cast reads like a who’s who: Jack Bruce (Cream), Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Wayne Nunes (Tricky), Glen Matlock (The Sex Pistols), Richard Pike (PVT – Warp Records), Dennis Bovell, Norman Watt Roy (Blockheads, Wilko), Danny Thompson (Nick Drake, John Martyn, Pentangle) and, Mick Jones of The Clash, who plays guitar on Confessions of a MILF.
The album itself embraces a punk ideology (rebellion, outspokenness) but, like The Slits, incorporates other elements. It’s also born from personal tragedy given that Viv’s decision to pick up a telecaster again in 2007 prompted the implosion of her 17-year marriage.
One wonders whether album highlight Confessions of a MILF is a direct response to that given the anger inherent within. Far from being a sexy list of wish fulfilment fantasies, it’s a list of the daily routines and chores that can make up a life with a warning. It’s a compelling listen, even if it does tend to ram the point home towards the end.
Another highlight, I Want More, feels like a pop at the current culture of ‘want, want, want’ and is delivered in brash, kick-ass fashion to get things rolling in confident fashion. The fusion of beats, electronics and guitars (and, of course, bass) hooks you in straight away.
And Albertine’s ability to mix tempos and toy with expectation is evident on In Vitro, which opens in trippy/psychedelic fashion before suddenly (at various points) picking up the pace into something more edgy and frenzied. It’s again quite compulsive.
When It Was Nice wears some retro guitar hooks well, with a trippy pop moment that recalls the hazy days of the ‘60s and ‘70s, while The False Heart (conversely) drips with menace early on before hitting you with a strong chorus.
If the first half of the album is better than the second (which arguably doesn’t mix things up enough), then it’s still worth checking out (final song Still England, especially) for this is, when all’s said and done, the type of comeback that forces you to sit up and take notice. - www.indielondon.co.uk

Viv Albertine was one of the faces of punk – friend of Sid Vicious, went out with Mick Jones – and her band remains hugely influential – on Sonic Youth, Massive Attack, Warpaint and the Beastie Boys to name but a few - but she left music when she gave up the Slits. She only picked up a guitar again in 2007 when her marriage ended but 2010’s Flesh EP demonstrated that the creative spark was still alight and her full length solo debut is all that EP promised and more.
It’s not the Slits in 2012, first off, although the clanging guitar and menacing air of ‘Little Girl in a Box’ suggests that Viv has rediscovered the sound that made the Slits so memorable. She’s older, somewhat wiser, still with a biting sense of humour. All the way through you’re listening either to her mischievous, very personal, passionate lyrics or you’re feeling the rhythms; she used different bass players on every track (including Tina Weymouth and Glen Matlock) and the interaction of her spindly guitar playing and their basslines makes things interesting – ‘The Madness of Clouds’, featuring Jennie Lee Lindburg of Warpaint, is hazy and shimmery while the edgy wails of ‘Becalmed (I Should Have Known)’ are anchored by Dennis Bovell’s strong rhythms.
‘Confessions of a MILF’ is, as the title suggests, a ‘fessing up - “I chose being an artist over being a wife” – and is especially memorable for the raw personal nature of the lyrics and for its driving rhythms. ‘Hookup Girl’ might be an angry or sad breakup song but it’s also freighted with a ballsy humour, incorporating the childish rhyme “milk, milk, lemonade” but with disturbingly adult overtones. The feminist fury of the Slits at sexual injustice is still on display but in a more subversive undertones, as in her hymn to English culture ‘Still England’ where she rhymes “Cosi Fanny Tutti” with “Women’s Institute-y”, set to a jazzy feel imparted by the legendary Danny Thompson.
Like Vivian Westwood. Viv maintains a punk sensibility while keeping up with fashion; The Vermillion Border preserves the revolutionary spirit of the Slits without the aging effect of old punk, the effect being a seriously exciting new project that could be as inspiring as her original band. - Ged M
 Viv Albertine - Flesh EP image

Flesh EP

 The Slits' guitarist Viv Albertine returns to recording after a twenty-five year hiatus, debuting her solo project with four new tracks for Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace. Albertine is punk rock royalty, having formed her first band, The Flowers Of Romance with her then-flatmate, Sid Vicious prior to becoming the principal songwriter in The Slits. Lead track 'Never Come' impresses immediately. There's something about it that feels like a direct follow-on to Albertine's classic material. The recording sounds somehow unfettered by trends and whatever technological advancements have come along in the quarter-century since Viv was last recording, while the song itself manages to feel dark and flirts with discord, but ultimately it's a great, angular pop record. - boomkat

The Slits, Cut (Full Album) 

Viv Albertine From the Slits is Too Punk to be Scared

By Max Steele
Viv Albertine, the punkest MILF in the stairwell. Photo by Chris Power.
Like everyone else, I've been obsessed with the Slits and their legendary records for years. When I saw Viv Albertine listed as the opener for the Raincoats' reunion tour a few years ago I didn't know what to expect and considered skipping the set. Touring in support of her solo EP "Flesh" (later re-released on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! here in the states) Viv Albertine took the fractured guitar symphonics and languid, jittery rhythms we associate with "Cut" to a darker, more cerebral place. With a few shy introductions and a some hilarious and heartbreaking anecdotes from the "Actual Punk Years," Viv cemented her rightful place as not only a punk icon, but a legendarily influential songwriter. 25 years after the Slits broke up, Albertine's just released her debut solo album, The Vermillion Border, with meditations on love, death, sex and truth. All the good stuff. Time has mellowed neither her sound nor her wit:

Noisey: Hi Viv! I can't wait to hear your new full-length. Does it have a title yet?
Viv Albertine: Yes, it's called The Vermilion Border. Should be out in October. Been difficult making it due to lack of money and experience. Been difficult getting it out due the lack of a music industry. And as for being a legend, that’s a load of bollocks. No one in a position of “power” is interested in helping. But that's how it was in the Slits. Fools.
You mentioned that the songs are quite personal. Are you ever worried about revealing too much? Or do you have no secrets?
Yes, I lie awake at night worrying that I've said too much! I've always been this way. My mother was always telling me to “keep my own council,” but I can't do it. There were lots of secrets in my family when I was growing up. As a child I heard things half-whispered and would make up the story. I don't think it's healthy to have secrets; they hang over a family for generations. Also I think there’s actually a lot of protection in telling the truth. People think you’re vulnerable when you tell the truth but it’s never hurt me.
What’s your backing band like these days? I know the last time you toured the US you performed both solo as well as with a combo. Do you prefer one or the other?

I love being solo. I was forced to do this for financial reasons and I was terrified but now I love it. Just me and the Telecaster and my untrained voice and my words. It's so raw and direct and I can gauge the audience and play with the songs, the speed the interpretation, much more than if I have a band. it is also very exhausting and draining and lonely, so having a band and sparking off other musicians is a luxury and a treat when I get it.
What's your songwriting process like? Do you think in terms of lyrics first or guitar riffs? 

Both, but I lean more towards lyrics. I have a notebook and my iPhone and jot down thoughts, conversations and rants, they look completely daft a lot of the time. I write the silliest things, no censorship.
Your guitar playing is so distinctive! You’ve spoken a bit about picking up the guitar after a number of years and being pleasantly surprised that you’ve still got the original Viv Albertine guitar vocabulary. I just assumed that you must have been constantly practicing. Is that accurate? Or is it just a divine, innate gift? 

Not a gift! Just the nerve to be honest and direct through the instrument. To have the confidence to speak through it, constantly monitoring myself for clichés and habits. Both of which I do fall into but at least I’m on the lookout.
You've mentioned recently that since picking up the guitar again, your life has seen some major changes. Did this happen since the Flesh EP came out in 2010? How have your personal travails affected your songwriting on the new record? 

Well I suppose I’m a “confessional” songwriter, so yes it is all in the songs. I’m not a gifted storyteller so I write what I know, and hope that honesty resonates with other people's experiences.
What’s your favorite song to play live? 

That changes every night. It's strange how a certain song can gel one night and have a deep connection with the audience. They really get it. Then another night it’ll be a different one. Sometimes it's down to the audience's receptiveness, and sometimes something clicks in me and I lose myself in a particular song, I never know beforehand if or when that’s going to happen. It happened recently with a song I used to call “Void” but I changed the title to “In Vitro.” It was the first time I admitted the song was about my experiences with IVF [in vitro fertilization] and just that acknowledgement to the audience and the change of title, made the song so powerful.

Photo by Carolina Ambida.
Among the many legacies of your time in the Slits, you've made an indelible mark on fashion. I understand that the combination of miniskirts and Doc Martens was out of pragmatism, to make a swift getaway from trouble. But while so much of the punk “look" gets attributed to Westwood and McLaren, photos of you and the other Slits are constantly and continually referenced in modern styles. Can you talk a bit about the look you'd put together during your time in the Slits? I know from seeing you perform that you're still quite a keen dresser. What do you like to wear now?
I always felt very free about experimenting with clothes. I was into clothes in a big way from a young age. Not expensive but fun and experimental. I made a lot of my own stuff and would buy little pieces from Biba and Mr Freedom to supplement my look. I was always quite daring sartorially. So when I met Malcolm and Vivienne and discovered their shop Sex, they reinforced something that was already in me. I liked to take the piss out of peoples’ attitude to sex through my clothes and drawings, and they did too. In the Slits, because we had the safety of a gang, we took that even further. We would walk down the street looking like a cross between porn models and aggressive boys. It totally confused people. Threatened the men. They were repulsed and attracted at the same time. Now I don’t have a specific look. I like to go from elegant and classic to experimental and fun, often within one day.
I saw on your Twitter page that the kids at your daughter's school were studying the Slits, and you were asked to come in and speak. Is that weird for you? How do you feel about the influence of the Slits in popular culture? Is it something you notice, pay attention to, or ignore?
They asked me in to give context to the so-called “punk” thing. They thought I was a nice middle class mum and would be sensible. But I’m not and I wasn't. Asking a “punk” to come and give a talk at school is like asking the kids who broke all the classroom windows to come in and explain to the other kids how they did it. I was as uncompromising as ever and they practically escorted me out by the scruff of my neck. Ha-ha. The sixth formers loved it though and not only will they not forget it, they got a true flavor of what we were about. Something they needed to hear in these rather safe times.
One of the things I really like about your songs is that they don’t take a hard stance—you don’t claim to have all the answers about everything. Is it hard to write songs about, essentially, curiosity?
I come across as someone with very strong opinions, but as you get to know me you realize I’m constantly questioning and open to change. It’s easier to put this into a song somehow as a song distills your stance. It has to, by the nature of its length. I like the constraint of writing in that format.
Do you have any pre-show rituals, good luck charms, or superstitions?
Absolutely not. I’m a realist. I’m never nervous because I’m not putting on a show. I’m just being myself. The gig just goes how it goes. The mistakes are my favorite bits.
What has been the absolute best reaction you’ve gotten from an audience member… or a groupie?
Occasionally a very handsome boy will be quite taken with me and of course that's nice. Once I got together with a beautiful guy and we dated for a little while but he turned out to be a seriously disturbed psycho, so I’m never going to do that again! So really, the best reaction is an understanding, an intimacy, a laugh between me and the audience. At the end of the gig it's like we’ve become friends.
What advice would you give singer-songwriters or artists who are just starting out? 

You will be poor. Can you handle that? If you’re a girl, you’ll be lonely. Can you handle that?
Your visual artwork in ceramics is really interesting. I think it shares a theme with your music: They're about sex, about love, but don’t exist simply to titillate. When you're making artwork about love and sex, how much do you think about the audience's experience? Are you trying to turn on the crowd, or does that not matter?
I’m trying to turn on myself! I have a low-ish libido. I’m very easily turned off on food, sex, and everything else. So on my own, making slightly erotic stuff, I can enjoy myself. I don't masturbate either, never have. It just doesn't work for me. I’m also turned on by humor. Often my words or my pieces make me laugh to myself.
I've seen in a number of places that you refer to yourself as naïve or shy, but from a fan's perspective, your body of work has been marked by bravery. I'm thinking first of the iconic image of you on the cover of "Cut." Do you feel brave?
I am brave, because to be a naturally shy person and yet do what I do takes some courage. I have to overrule my fears. If I was a natural exhibitionist, I wouldn't be brave, because it would take no effort to do it. I can't bear letting fear dictate my actions. It’s so petty. I’ve got one life. I don't want on my gravestone, '”She wanted to do it, but she was scared.”

Interview - Viv Albertine

1979 and 2010 actually seem to have a fair bit in common, thirty or so years apart as they may be. A Labour government struggling to run the country -and as with then, the scary as hell prospect that there could be a Tory Government making it even worse, just around the corner. Yet despite that, healthy DIY music scenes, people taking the ethos of punk and making their own, far more exciting records, people publishing their own written work and setting up their own labels. Oh, and Viv Albertine being behind some of the most amazing recorded work of the year.
In 1979, that work was the seminal album Cut and one of the most wonderful cover versions ever, when the Slits totally transformed Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine.’ In 2010, it’s her first recorded work in twenty-five years the wonderful ‘Flesh’ EP.
When I call her at her home on the south coast of England, she’s wonderfully warm, and it’s quite clear that I’m not the only man on earth rather in awe of her. I’m in the company of non other than one Thurston Moore, alternative rock icon, Sonic Youth guitarist -and most significantly for our story today, the man behind the Ecstatic Peace record label.
Viv met Thurston when she went to see Sonic Youth with none other than Gina from the Raincoats, the fabulous band who were the Slits’ contemporaries (and made one of 1979’s other phenomenal records with their self-titled debut.) As Viv puts it, she and Thurston ‘hit it off and hung out for the rest of the evening.’ She let him hear some of the songs that she’d been working on. ‘They weren’t ready [for releasing] I thought,’ she says, however ‘he liked them and thought they should be recorded as part of my musical progress.’
For now the EP is the only thing that’s available, but she says ‘I’ve got so many songs I’m desperate to record. Like with the Slits, I’m getting into my head how I want them to sound.’ She’s playing live and adds that ‘when I play live, the people there are often moved. [The songs] resonate for people.’
This EP is nakedly personal. I have to confess that I find myself desperate to ask about some of the lyrics, yet they feel so nakedly personal that it feels rather like quizzing someone on something that you read when you stole their diary, slipped it back and are desperate to ask them. Yet despite this, I can play it on repeat for several listens, several months after it dropped on the doormat.
I also can’t resist myself from asking about the punk-era that the Slits came through. It’s clear that the Slits found the times they were living in difficult. More than thirty years later, even John Lydon (AKA Rotten) has said that he feels it’s been talked up into something it wasn’t. How does Viv feel about it all, looking back?
‘It [the punk movement] was important to us at the time. We lived in London - and still there was nothing going on! It’s amazing how lacklustre things were.’ But when punk started ‘that small punk movement did attract like-minded people.’ Did it change things for people? ‘Everything was picked to pieces – it was like ground zero.’ And Viv found herself in with some of the people who changed the musical shape of Britain in the late seventies, in a way that despite challenges, still reverberates over thirty years later. Amongst those she knew were people like Sid Vicious and John Lydon -’we were all mates or cohorts.’ The Slits’ original drummer Palmolive (born Paloma Romera) would go onto join the Raincoats, being replaced by one Peter Clarke, better known as Budgie, who drummed on Cut and then went onto join Souxsie and the Banshees and marry Siouxsie Sioux. He in turn was replaced by Bruce Smith, who also played with Bristol’s The Pop Group.
Not that this should give an impression of some kind of punk happy family. Because it’s clear that being in the Slits meant being under attack from a lot of sides. ‘People were so antagonistic,’ she recalls. ‘We were smuggled out of hotels. We were attacked physically.’ The clothes they wore -and this at a time when Vivienne Westwood was laying the ground for what would happen- seems to have shocked people to their very core. As Viv describes it ‘We dressed like something out of a porn mag and bovver boys.’ A tough time, then? ‘It was extremely tough for us. The only person who was kind and open to us was John Peel,’ she says referring to the legendary Radio 1 DJ. The Banshees may have been refusing to sign to anyone -or at least giving the impression that they were, but the Slits had recorded two sessions for Peel before they were signed by Island Records in 1979.
The album Cut still sounds ahead of its’ time even now. The cover with the three girls – Viv, singer Ari Up and bassist Tessa Pollitt covered in mud was not designed to titillate but unnerved many. The only question I ask her about the cover, I tell her, is whether she’s heard the rumour that the Rough Trade Record shop had a meeting about whether or not to stock the album because of the cover. [N.B. This is mentioned in the sleeve notes to the Rough Trade Shops Post Punk 01 compilation]. Viv laughs and says she hasn’t heard this rumour but it wouldn’t surprise her. Though the Slits were later signed to the Rough Trade label, then linked with the shop, Viv says that head honcho Geoff Travis ‘didn’t think we were PC enough! We weren’t considered feminists.’
As the seventies became the eighties, so the scenes shifted and times got tougher. ‘ Punk was so wonderful…and then the eighties happened.’ The Slits played a final gig at the Hammersmith Palais and split up in November 1981. Viv’s unquestionably influenced many people over the years -’I'd be flattered if Madonna took influences from us’ – but it’s not all moved her. The 1990s saw the emergence of the Riot Girl movement, but ‘the riot girl movement didn’t grab me.’ She reflects that ‘After the Slits…after a year, I felt the whole music scene was dead. I started to make films and literally downed the guitar.’ She went to film school and proudly states on her website that ’she didn’t drop out.’
Not involved in the recent Slits reformation for either the ‘Return Of the Killer Slits’ EP or the Trapped Animal album, Viv is still continuing to persue her own path. I hope there’ll be more albums. She’s playing live and tells me that she’s planning to come to Scotland towards the end of the year, and we round off our conversation by discussing venues in Scotland.- 17seconds.co.uk

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