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BOOK REVIEW: Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine

| 12 August 2014 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine
Faber & Faber, rrp $29.99
30 June 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Clothes Music Boys by Viv Albertine book cover

Like most of the original players in Generation Punk, Slits guitarist Viv Albertine didn’t give a shit about safety pins and Mohawks, gobbing on people or fighting for fun. She was, like her contempories Sid Vicious, Stuart Goddard, Siouxsie Sioux, John Lydon and Malcolm McLaren, looking for a way out of the dead end future that was all post-war Britain had to offer working class kids by the ‘70s.

With a yearning for creative expression, Albertine overcame a miserably poor and sometimes violent upbringing to pick up enough guitar to create a truly unique style, as evidenced on The Slits two highly influential albums, Cut and Return Of The Giant Slits.

As a close friend of Vicious and Paul Simonen, former girlfriend of The Clash’s Mick Jones and New York Dolls’ Johnny Thunders, acquaintance of McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Chrissie Hynde and many more, Albertine has plenty of stories to tell of the formative punk scene in England in the late ‘70s, though as fascinating a read as her memories of these times are, it’s her later life that becomes truly compelling.

A student of design and then film, Albertine became a filmmaker and eventually married, before discovering cancer and having a disastrous few years trying to conceive using IVF treatment. Even when she finally did get pregnant, she almost lost her daughter more than once, and almost died in childbirth herself.

Coming out of all this drama makes for an emotional read, and Albertine really hits the nail on the head in finding her writing voice as partially disembodied from the drama – much like she describes some of the more personal degradations in her book, she floats above the scene, observing with heartbreaking clarity and honesty.

After the birth of her daughter Albertine has more struggles to face: her husband (who remains unnamed throughout the book, as does her daughter, diplomatically protecting them from unwanted scrutiny, perhaps) treats her worse and worse as she feels the urge to explore music again. She eventually joins former bandmates Ari Up and Tessa Pollitt in The New Slits for a couple of tours, makes a movie, gets divorced and overcomes many of her doubts and fears by reconnecting with friends and making a solo album, The Vermilion Border.

It’s a crazy ride – one that I found difficult to put down each night, and one which drew laughter and tears on more than one occasion. It’s also about a lot more than Albertine’s mother thought was all she cared about: “Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys.”

Category: Book Reviews

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