Upstairs at The Enterprise has the intimacy of someone’s living room; when I arrive there are audience members relaxing, cross-legged on the ground and, from what I can tell, not quite prepared for what they’re about to see. The crowd begins to thicken a bit as Laura Kidd, the one-woman force of She Makes War, arrives on stage dressed as some sort of goth cabaret clown. With a tone reminiscent of psychedelic indie band Warpaint with the grungy lean of Shirley Manson, Kidd uses her Telecaster and trusty looping pedal in such a way that a backing band is not necessary as she showcases tracks from her recent debut album Disarm.
‘Slow Puncture’ and ‘Scared To Capsize’, in particular, played back-to-back, help the juxtaposition of Kidd’s dark tone and lighter melodies to shine through. While the former allows Kidd to show her more angsty side, and even let a few snarls creep up on her face, closing with ‘Scared To Capsize’ is brilliant stroke. Finally seeming comfortable with herself dressed as a clown (is that possible?), as well as with the audience, she becomes increasingly animated with each layer and loop she adds to the song. The Dirty Projectors-like harmonies coming from just one person are quite impressive, and Kidd finally convinces that her music is more than just a gimmick.
The transition from She Makes War’s whimsical closing number into Viv Albertine’s all-around whimsical set is nothing less than perfect. Having run downstairs during the break, it’s strange to re-emerge to a completely packed room of middle-aged men and riot grrrls alike standing side-by-side with little to no breathing room. What was once an intimate living-room-like atmosphere has transformed into a much-too-small enclosure. After apologising to the crowd for “looking like a cross between Cheryl Cole and Russell Brand,” Albertine eases into sharing personal stories with the crowd between songs.
Playing live as a trio for the first time, Albertine is joined by Kidd on various instruments (keyboards, ukulele, loudspeaker) and violinist Milly, the band creates a sound that lends itself well to the harmonies and instrumental builds that Albertine liberally sprinkles her songs with. ‘Fairytale’, which seems to be one of the more poignant songs that Albertine has written since The Slits, most encompasses the sound that Limerence is now trying to create. Explaining that her adolescence and the emerging fame of The Slits felt like a fairytale at the time, the lyrics tell of a painful past but, musically, it’s naïve and light in melody. Like Albertine, it’s not what it seems from the outside and she clearly wants the crowd to recognise that.
Her set as a whole is surprisingly more indie-pop in style and instrumentation and less noisy than any Slits fan would expect. While the lyrics may be simple, handclaps, shouted onomatopoeia and three-part harmonies lend themselves to a fuller, more layered sound. Along with these elements, at times, comes a tension and dissonance in Albertine’s sound that shines as homage to the characteristic Slits sound. ’I Want More’, with its standout line, “Give me your guts, give me your gore / it’s not enough, I want more,” is one that obviously pleases the classic post-punk fans in the room.
Another more classic-sounding song, however, makes some of the audience members noticeably uncomfortable. During ‘Couples Are Creepy’, a few even start to exit the room, as it feel as though Albertine is trying too hard to recreate something that’s better left in her past. ‘Confessions Of A MILF’ closes the set as Albertine speak-sings “I chose being an artist over being a wife / now I’m going to lead a very lovely life.” The outro of “talking, laughing, loving, breathing…”-esque shouts is all a bit ‘L Word’, but you can’t fault Albertine’s logic.
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Photos by Lexy Bright
She Makes War