Viv Albertine -‘The Vermilion Border.’ (Cadiz Music)
Back in 2010, I interviewed Viv Albertine about her then new EP, Flesh. She told me then that she had so many songs that she was desperate to record. Two and a half years later, her first solo album is with us. And it’s been more than worth the wait.
Sure, Ms. Albertine was a member of The Slits and her influence on so many who have followed after cannot be underestimated. But let’s look to the present: this album is one of the strongest and most original I have heard this year (and that’s talking top five out of over three hundred). She has a refreshingly honest take on songwriting. It’s not simply The Slits part 2. A song title like the album’s opener ‘I Want More’ could simply be a greedy call for bling in the hands of so many; instead, here it is the sound of someone taking control and wanting more from life. It sounds like a manifesto – in a good way -not just for the album, but for the continuation of her musical journey, having effectively downed her guitar for the best part of a quarter of a century.
These are great songs, but they’re nakedly personal. The vermilion border is a biological term for the border between the reddish skin of the lip and the more regular skin of the face -and to listen to this album is not a journey into the psyche, but the privilege of reading someone’s diary. It’s a privilege, but once you’re in…there’s no turning back. You’ve got that close.
That’s not to say it’s an unpleasantly intense or embarassingly confessional record, because it’s not. And there’s a fabulous sense of humour within too, particularly on tracks like album closer ‘Still England‘ and ‘Hookup Girl.’ Oh, and the list of contributors (Jack Bruce, Tina Weymouth, Glen Matlock, Mick Jones, Dennis Bovell, and Danny Thompson, amongst many) adds to what is a warm and rich musical tapestry.
Even if she never makes another album again, this album is a genuinely thrilling ride.
The Vermilion Border is released on Cadiz Music on November 5.