Viv Albertine - The Vermillion Border

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iPod Shuffle

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Viv Albertine – The Vermillion Border


My iPod finally starts to get a bit more modern with it’ latest random selection. Released in 2012, The vermillion Border was Viv Albertine’s first solo album and her first for 33 years! After The Slits split in 1982, Viv didn’t even pick up her guitar for 25 years!


One of the first in the inner circle of punks, following seeing an early Sex Pistol’s gig, Viv was ideally placed to join in the new music scene exploding around her, the fact that she couldn’t play an instrument being rightly regarded as nothing but a slight inconvenience. The band she joined, The Slits, went on to become one of Punk’s legendary standard bearers – creators of a glorious noise and of the best John Peel session ever! Their debut album, Cut, has rightly become regarded as a stone cold classic of either Punk or Post Punk, depending on how rigidly you define these things.


Viv’s life has been excellently documented in her brutally honest autobiography “Boys, Boys, Boys, Music, Music, Music, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes”, where she candidly tells of her battles with cancer, her love life and her Art. The kind of book that stays with you long after you read it, it demonstrates how Viv effortlessly and unselfconsciously pours herself, her life and her deepest feelings into what she does. This is not a book where a reader can come away feeling like they don’t really know the author, a talent that Viv seems to bring to everything she does.


The Slits may have been rooted in Punk, but they refused to be straitjacketed in anybody else’s expectations and soon experimented with reggae, dub, funk and tribal rhythms. After they split, Viv took to film, directing for music videos, TV shows and film. A Slits reunion led to her picking up the guitar again, but this was brought to a close with the sad and untimely passing of Ari Up, the Band’s singer. Viv though had her love of the guitar reignited, leading to 2010’s Flesh EP and then to this album.


The Vermillion Border, named after the area of the face where lips meet skin, sees her writing, playing and singing. One intriguing idea was to have a different, well known bass player on each track. The roster includes 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.

An album with no definable genre, The Vermillion Border is captivating record, taking you into Viv’s life and thoughts, switching between chanted verses, slight psychedelia, pop and angular rock music. It will surely be interesting to see where we go next, as a very healthy lack of predictability is one of Viv’s trademarks. A comeback that I hope yields further fruits. Viv Albertine is something of a national treasure, but I’m not sure she would be best pleased with that description.






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