The Slits were a pioneering feminist band whose 1979 debut album, The Cut, shook the male-dominated world of British punk. Viv Albertine was the guitarist for the band, who broke up in 1982. Over thirty years later, Albertine published an acclaimed memoir about her childhood and her experience in punk rock, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music Music, Music. Boys, Boys Boys (2014). She now returns with a new memoir, To Throw Away Unopened, in which she reflects on aging, feminism, and her life-long outsider status. In The Guardian, Sean O’Hagan chats with Albertine about her new book and her desire to “just want to blow a hole in it all.” Here’s an excerpt:
Like her debut, the wonderfully titled Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music Music, Music. Boys, Boys Boys, which described her journey into punk and beyond, this new volume is essentially a chronicle of outsiderness. It is driven by a relentless honesty about herself and the dysfunctional family dynamic she was born into, which she lays bare with an almost forensic eye. It explores her upbringing in a working-class family in Muswell Hill in the 1960s, her parents’ breakup, her mother’s central role in shaping her fiercely independent outlook and her fraught relationship with her younger sister, from whom she is now estranged. Her conversational style of writing is lullingly deceptive, allowing the revelations, when they come, to explode like well-placed time bombs in the narrative. At one point, after her mother’s death, she discovers that her mum was keeping a diary at the same time as her dad. Both of them, unbeknown to the other, were amassing evidence for their looming divorce proceedings. It’s that sort of twisted story, but the conflicting parental diary entries are only the half of it.
“I think it is essentially about rage and being an outsider,” she says. “Female rage is not often acknowledged – never mind written about – so one of the questions I’m asking is: ‘Are you allowed to be this angry as you grow older as a woman?’ But I’m also trying to trace where my anger came from. Who made me the person that is still so raw and angry? I think that it’s empowering to ask that question. I really hope it resonates with women. I want to say to younger women especially that it’s OK to be an outsider, it’s OK to admit to your rage. You’re not the only person walking down the street feeling angry inside.”
Image: Viv Albertine (left) with fellow Slits band member Ari Up in 1980. Via LA Times.