artandculture Book Review

Clothes, Music, Boys: A Review

Thursday, December 11, 2014 Cheyenne Hendricks

Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys is a grizzly auto interpretation of Viv Albertine’s tumultuous life. She depicts her upbringing on side one and her adult life on side two. It’s a painful, unfiltered look at the life of one of punk rock’s most formidable female trailblazers. From tawdry tales of debauchery and drug use to heartbreaking narrations of her most intimate devastations, Albertine bears all in this personal exploitation. She shocks and engages her readers with chapter titles such as “Masturbation” “Shit and Blood” “Blow Job” and “Heroin”. Although these terms would be expected from a 70’s punk star, the expressive vulnerability poured out through her words is gripping in an unnerving and unexpected way. Every chapter captivates you with a nauseated anticipation of what tragedy will happen next. Despite the loss, the abuse, and the seemingly unending struggle Albertine endures, she doesn’t portray herself as the victim. She experiences life’s ultimate lows and glorious highs with astonishing resilience and fearlessness. 

She powered through unthinkable trials like child abuse, abortion, drug addiction, and cancer, yet despite these relentless tribulations, she tells her story with a a candid humor and brutal honesty which is both revolting and captivating. Although, it’s a heart wrenching, unflinching glimpse into the life of a woman struggling to make her way in a man’s world of music and media, it isn’t a book from which anyone could derive inspiration. It isn’t meant to be. Some say she is a pioneer in the punk rock industry, but she is just a tough woman who unknowingly set a degradingly low standard for artists who would follow in her footsteps. Some critics say she liberated women in a conventionally, male dominated setting; however, I see her behavior as earth shatteringly average. The indulgence in recreational drugs, morally bereft sexual experimentation, and cavalier approach to familial values is practiced daily by musicians everywhere. It’s nothing new. I don’t see why we are romanticizing her role in the music industry. I am not diminishing her struggle and victorious outcome from a very disturbed life, but I do not agree with labeling her a “pioneer”. What others call “liberating”, I call setting a bad example. She had to ruin her life in order to gain equal footing with men, and that’s just depressing. 

This book is a repulsive and remarkable account of music, feminism, and punk culture. It’s raw, it’s gritty, and it’s the unedited truth. As off-putting as the language and grammatical inaccuracy may be, it is worth reading to get a full bodied grasp of what it’s like for a woman fighting her way through patriarchal society. 

Cheyenne Hendricks
Lifestyle Blogger

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