An Investigation of ‘Sex, guns and fast cars/women’ – The Scarlet Street Resistance
Who were the Scarlet Street Resistance? And more importantly, where did they go?
‘Sex, guns, fast cars/women, rock ‘n roll, and a life on the run’ – those are the five items which are essential to the Scarlet Street Resistance, according to Mr Jones, who makes up half of the musical duo. Upon a listen to the two records released in 2008, the list comes as no surprise. The songs and their counterpart visuals are unabashedly pulpy, telling tales of murders, robberies and get away cars, all of which are centred around the two stars of the show – Mr Jones and Scarlet herself. Where Mr Jones lurks in the dimly lit production and PR, Scarlet coolly holds a gun to the head of all her foes – both threatening to do so in her lyrics and literally pulling the trigger in her music videos.
The film-noir-themed duo released ‘Nasty Thoughts’ and ‘Waiting for God (Live Mix)’ though Latest Records over a decade ago with the promise of an album. Despite this, they haven’t been seen or heard from since. Had they been shot down in a street fight? Kidnapped by an enemy? The mind races around the possibilities surrounding one question – what happened to the Scarlet Street Resistance?
Upon the discovery of their disappearance, the only choice I had in my journalistic arsenal was to don a fedora, pull up the collar of my trench coat and wander down the shadowy alleyway of the internet. Clues were notably few and gapingly far between. A 2008 interview archives the band’s clandestine gigs, which took places across Brighton and at The Secret Garden Party festival. Mr Jones refuses to reveal much else about the Scarlet Street Resistance, calling them ‘an intimate partnership lead as always by our Scarlet … I’m sorry for being a little obscure, but I think that explains it quite well.’
In fairness to him, the ability to avoid a simple definition is central to the duo’s ethos. While the band’s visual imagery, storytelling and even title (which references the 1945 American film ‘Scarlet Street’) evoke the jazz soundtrack of classic Film Noir, the sound of the Scarlet Street Resistance couldn’t be more different. Their electro-pop genre is both danceable and trances like – synth soaked beats which melt into laser stunned breaks remind listeners of the Scissor Sisters. There’s a hint of both Portishead and James Bond in the backing piano chords, while Scarlet’s vocals are smoother than 12 karot butter.
This evasion of straightforwardness carries over to the Scarlett Street Resistance’s music videos. At the centre of both videos is none other than Scarlet herself. Doused in a red and black colour-block dress and hair quaffed to imposing heights, she casually reveals a gun and proceeds to break into a bank (that, though my excellent deductive skills, I might say looks suspiciously like the Latest Music Bar). The music video for ‘Nasty Thoughts’ ends with Scarlet fleeing the scene of the successful bank heist, face defiantly turned away from the camera.
The next video, however, doubles down on the intrigue. Subtitled ‘album introduction and taster’, here we find evidence of the album that might have been. The video is voiced over by who can only be Mr Jones himself, who tells us his story ‘starts with a girl’ who ‘had a problem with her demons’, so much so that ‘she found her father’s gun, carefully loaded six bullets into it and headed towards the bank’. ‘This is where what I have to tell you begins’, he concludes, while Scarlet’s ominous backing vocals sing ‘don’t take me down, don’t push me around’.
The final shot of the video waves the album we will never see, ‘The Big Steal’, cruelly in our faces. As Mr Jones’s said in response to the interview question ‘will the story continue in the future?’, ‘If it doesn’t, then the full extent of our whole endeavour together will never be known’. Unfortunately, this seems to be the reality that we must live with.
Words by Kate Bowie