This is as good as can be expected – and fortunately, that is pretty good.
Everett True 2009
The Slits never were much ones for standing on convention. The (mostly) all-girl outfit might be associated with 70s punk rock, but they were always way more anarchistic and fun than the norm.
Their first album, 1979’s laidback, subversive and life-changing Cut, was produced by renowned reggae dude Dennis Bovell. It delved into the heady groove of Don Letts’ Ladbroke Grove rude boy sound systems, topped by Ari’s infectious giggle and high-pitched screams. This was followed by a wilfully experimental, untitled, un-sleeved but totally lovable album and 1981’s much underrated Return of the Giant Slits, which revealed that dub visions of The Mad Professor and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry ran deep.
Fast-forward to 2005, and it’s time for a reunion. Pollitt and Up return, grab a few friends (including, temporarily, Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook) and record an EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits. They’ve since been touring, and now we’ve the first Slits album in over 25 years.
The only real question that needs to be asked, bearing in mind this heady lineage, is: is Trapped Animal worthy of the Slits moniker? You need to ask? This is The Slits we’re talking about – they don’t know how to stand still, they don’t do ordinary. These ladies do not pretend to be anyone they are not. These songs are about issues that concern them, right now – no pretence to be sweet young things (not that they ever were). These are songs dealing with everyday trials and tribulations (Had a Day, the norm-skewering Pay Rent). These are songs for 2009, not 1979 – and that’s perhaps the highest compliment of all.
On the turbulent Reggae Gypsy, the music is reminiscent of New Age Steppers’ loose groove – unsurprising, given the amount of fresh faces given voice – while the devastatingly sweet lover’s rock of Cry Baby could almost be a Fade Away for today. Often, the music has an almost unsettling sexual charge with a 00s slant – provocative brass opens the energetic Ask Ma and helps bolster the bouncy, satirical cry of rage Peer Pressure.
Sometimes, the music veers into Number One Enemy (from the untitled album) territory: especially the brash Reject and croaky, meandering Can’t Relate. And sometimes, wonderfully, the music recalls the underrated third album: especially on the deep mellow groove of Babylon and Be It. But is this album worthy of the Slits moniker, 25 years on?