At last women really were to be taken seriously…
Chris Jones 2007-04-18
Known to the legions of John Peel's listeners as a regular session act who had created an amusingly chaotic punk noise, The Slits are a great example of a band who, having taken a while to actually get a record deal, became something far greater. Cut, their debut, is a startlingly complex and compelling hybrid of punk, dub and pop that thirty years on sounds as fresh and contemporary as ever. So how did the band go from throwaway scenesters to post-punk icons?
The answers are twofold: Drummer and producer. Originally an all-female crew with Ari Up, Palmolive, Tessa Pollitt and Viv Albertine all springing from the mid-'70s Ladbroke Grove squat clique, by 1977 they'd supportd the Clash on their White Riot tour but lost their drummer Palmolive to the Raincoats. Drafting in former Spitfire Boy, Budgie (he of later Siouxsie and the Banshees fame) they then took their time finding a producer for their debut. Unusually they chose eminent dubmeister Dennis Bovell, who took their feminist radicalism and laissez faire approach and bolted it tto a deeper, spacier reggae vibe. Suddenly Ari Up's vocal resemblance to Larry the Lamb became a charming layer in the chiming rhythmically complex gumbo that they'd now found as their sound. Budgie's spritzy hi-hat and metronomic capabilities allowed the band to spread out and get playful.
The lyrics are a mutant mix of faux Jamaican jive and 'couldn't-give-a-toss' West Londonisms. On ''Shoplifting'' Ari warns of the approach of the 'Babylon' while then urging us to 'do a runner!'. Consumerism gets another bashing in ''Spend Spend Spend'' while the feminist backlash to punk's boys club ethics came to the fore in ''So Tough'' (about John Lydon and Sid Vicious) and ''Instant Hit'' (about Keith Levene). The album's peak comes with the hilarious ''Typical Girls''. Shifting time signatures with aplomb, it features a lovely tune disguising a bitter attack on sexual stereotypes.
The whole album straddles the fine line between amateurism and avant garde. Along with its confrontational cover depicting the band as mud-caked amazons it was to prove a template for the true outpourings of post-punk like The Pop Group and the aforementioned Raincoats. At last women really were to be taken seriously…