12 November 2012 (gig)
02 December 2012
For an artist who has taken a twenty five year break from music, Viv Albertine couldn’t have looked more at home on stage, as she performed several tracks from her hotly anticipated first solo album ‘The Vermillion Border’ at Rough Trade East last Monday (12th Nov).
Taking to the stage in a sparkly dress and Vivian Westwood boots - which Viv informs us she was forcibly recommended to buy by Westwood herself many years ago, Viv looked every inch the self-proclaimed ‘MILF’ of her wittily titled track ‘Confessions of a MILF’ (the album version reunites her with Mick Jones of the Clash, who wrote the classic track ‘Train in Vain’ about her).
A quintessential icon of British punk and Riot Grrrl culture, Viv was a member of influential girl band the Slits. Her new album, out this month, has all the credentials of a bona fide punk rock icon. Each track features a renowned bass player, from Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, Jack Bruce of Cream and even Dennis Bovel – producer of the Slits seminal debut album ‘Cut’.
Although softer and more vulnerable than the Slits’ sound, Viv’s solo work retains the sardonic wit and lyricism of the bands’ original punk ethic, but with added wisdom, and dare I say a pinch of bitterness. Darker undercurrents pull at the surface of the songs, dragging them to deeper, more sinister places than the sweet nursery-rhyme like rhythms and melody’s that often drive them.
The short and sweet set of five tracks wavers between purposely saccharine melodies into refrains delivered with a sense of affecting urgency, reminiscent of her wayward roots. “Confessions of a MILF’, for example, ends with the mantra ‘no place like home’ repeated over and over again until it becomes a distorted cry for help from the Stepford wife like character in the song – certainly not words from a fairytale.
Viv’s uncompromising feminist voice still rings true in almost every song. Her lyrics resonate on a deeply personal yet widely universal level, giving her the capacity to connect with her audience individually whilst emitting observations on society in more general terms. For example the song In Vitro, a song, as Viv unabashedly explains to us, is about Needles- for Heroin and artificial insemination- at different points in her life.
During the gig,and especially during the song ‘I want more’, another repeatedly cried refrain, I am struck by how Viv still radiates subversive energy on stage. Her voice a rallying call to women, or men, who may feel disillusioned or bored with life, set to biting ‘horrible’ guitar riff’s that Sid Vicious would be proud of.
Viv’s solo album “The Vermillion Border “is out now and is well worth a listen.