Trapped Animal lacks the raw energy, sense of youth, and naivete that make the original Slits albums appealing. The band, upgraded from a trio to a quintet with the addition of some young talent, attempts to recapture something of the band’s punk sound but instead comes off amateurish. Even with slick production the instrumentation is lackluster, missing that rattling punk energy; in their overt politics and complete lack of subtlety, the lyrics are trite. In the end, this is a raggae rehash, with very little in the way of artistry, beauty, or punk leanings.
It may be because Ari Up, frontwoman and one of the two original Slits present for the album, is not the vital force she once was. On Trapped Animal she simply tries too hard, and her affected vocals don’t sound natural or fresh. At times Up adopts a Jamaican dancehall accent or sings in Japanese — to grating effect. Songs like “Reggae Gypsy,” “Babylon,” “Spend Spend Spend,” and “Peer Pressure” are uninspiring in their obvious efforts to connect with some sort subversive youth culture.
“Reject,” marked by a chorus of banshee cries, comes closest to capturing the original sound and excitement of the Slits. On “Cry Baby” Up relinquishes the microphone to a young Hollie Cook, and although it sounds more like Lily Allen fronting a reggae band than it does the Slits, it’s a bright point on the album. The song isn’t terribly original, but it’s entirely more listenable than anything else here.
“Pay Rent” reveals the intent behind Trapped Animal. I can’t fault a couple of old rockers for trying to cash in on previous artistic successes, but I can fault them for making bad music. It may have been wise to let the younger members of the refreshed band shine more, rather than pushing them to the background. As it is, it’s hard to see much of a future for this reincarnated punk band, and the new members are more likely to suffer from that than the older ones, who have already lived out their glory days.