New Musical Express live review

8 December 1984


Strawberry Switchblade, London Shaw Theatre

Hearing 'What Is Love' [presumably they mean 'Who Knows What Love Is'], said one of the Switchblades, prompted someone to call us 'pompous Christmas Cakes' and they launched into the song in question.

Well, I wouldn't call that description of the song, which is part elegy, part demand, accurate. They are, after all, just-slips-of-girls, and everyone knows that only people who've had lobotomies think girls are merely transparently silly, as that tag implies.

For, after all, the Switchblades affectation of very daft performing clothes, (which do raise thoughts about xmas fairies if not the cakes) does solve the numero uno problem of what to wear if you're gonna play the guitar, you're female, and you don't want half the audience permanently speculating on the colour of your knickers. Flaunt 'em or daunt 'em is the Strawberry theory-as-praxis and it's utterly reasonable.

And the music? It's a cross between post-punk and neo-folk, the epitome of girls being girlish, too close to the bone to be forgettable.

The Switchblades' music could be seen as a send-up of femininity were it not so earnest. As it is, the Blades' reedy voices are a permanent monument to the arid landscape where most girls don't get centre stage until they're acting on the boys' terms. These two have broken that rule and turned themselves into Alices in eccentricity i order to get a hearing.

Artifice replaces what doesn't ever come naturally (but usually looks like it has). For all the sweetness, this band are more disquieting than anything much more explicitly obscene.

In one sugared pill they've unwrapped the meaning of being conventionally female in this society: polka-dotted frilly dresses, painted faces, wispy voices and - finally - incredible manipulative power.

These Switchblades can pierce even a cynic's heart - they are not made of sugar and spice and all things nice.

Rachel Wilde