The Slits

    Revenge of the Killer Slits


    It would be unreasonable to expect a comeback from the Slits that mimics the band’s best material, the most recent of which is twenty-five-years-old. The band’s debut, 1979’s Cut, is a fantastic, reggae-tinged album that unexpectedly placed the band in a league with its punk peers. It had a primitive, even carnal element to it. Tessa Pollitt’s slinky dub-style bass lines, Ari Up’s vocal impression of a ravenous Nico, and pure teenage energy made up for the Slits’ lack of age and experience. Before Up reached adulthood (she was fourteen when the Slits formed in ’76), her band opened for the Clash (the members’ musical background was weeks old) and had pieced together that now-influential album.


    Despite lacking musicianship, the Slits became wildly important, not only because the band members provided a basis for comparison to post-punks like the Delta 5 and eventual followers like Erase Errata, but because they (unlike Kim Fowley’s pet project the Runaways) could act as models for budding female musicians without adopting a “jailbait” image (say what you will about Cut’s revealing album cover).


    Cut aside, the group began with a more straight-up punk sound that subsided before any recordings appeared — the 1997 anthology, In the Beginning, offers an occasional live taste — and ended in 1981 with import-only record Return of the Giant Slits, which brought the band into “dub invades Japanese children’s show” territory. And although the group’s comeback EP sounds nothing like that last LP, the heavy bass thuds that carried portions of Return of the Giant Slits are present here, only now they’re topped by a somewhat poorly placed hip-hop influence that steals the energy and urgency of the band’s original dynamic.


    Now in their early forties, Up and Pollitt (the only original members left in the band) have chosen to make Revenge of the Killer Slits a collaborative effort. They’ve transformed “Slits Tradition” from a hip-hop introduction suffering from Mike Jones complex into a family affair, backing up rhymes with a chorus of famous daughters. Such daughters being those of Pollitt, Mick Jones and Paul Cook, the latter of whom also happened to collaborate on this three-song EP. Closer “Kill Them With Love” is a bit more danceable and representative of the group’s known dub influence, and it even contains more of Up’s signature banshee wail, but the rapping and the drumming that sounds free of human touch makes this song too slick to capture the band’s energy potential.


    What the EP does have, though, is “Number One Enemy.” Frankly, this is a shit song placed into a shit recording — understandable, given that it’s a recent recording of what appears to be an unrecorded song from the pre-Cut era. And it’s got the Sex Pistols written all over it — also understandable, given not only the influence the Sex Pistols had on budding punks in England but also the personal influence stepfather John Lydon likely had on young Arianna Forster (Ari Up). But that the Slits can re-create the sound of the Pistols, even with Up mimicking Lydon’s voice, shows that the members are still capable of remembering where they started and bringing it to their daughters (literal and figurative) as long as they please.


    Returning with only an oddly combined EP to accompany their new tour, it almost seems the Slits are testing out new material, both on tour and with critics, to see where their focus should lie before coming out with a proper album. But this would be against their past practices; this EP shows a pair of women who have reached middle age and care less about being influential than about having fun and toying with music. But for a band that got its start with nothing other than a desire to test genres its members admired, there’s nothing out of character here.



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