I bloody love The Slits. They were one of those bands that emerged from the early punk scene that really embodied the punk spirit. They were not the greatest musicians in the world but they wanted to be in a band so they just went and did it. Fourteen year old lead singer Ariane Forster (aka Ari Up) and drummer Paloma Romero (Palmolive) met after a Patti Smith gig in London and formed a band called The Flowers Of Romance (along with one Sid Vicious on saxophone!!).
As was the spirit of the times The Flowers Of Romance didn't last long and Ari and Palmolive went to form The Slits. After a couple of line-ups, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollit joined on guitar and bass respectively. They supported both The Clash and The Pistols in gigs in 1977 but it wasn't until 1979 that Cut was released.
It is heavily influenced by reggae and 'dub' in particular. In fact it was produced by Dennis Bovell who recorded some dub plates under the name of 'Blackbeard' and has the dubious distinction (to some at least) of being credited in inventing 'Lovers Rock'.
Cut was a far cry from the lilting apolitical soft sounds of Lovers Rock though. It is jagged, sharp, choppy and full of post-punk sentimentality. Songs about shoplifting (Shopping), Sid Vicious (So Tough, probably and Instant Hit, maybe) and all those girls who jumped on the punk bandwagon (Typical Girls) make up the album along with one of the most inspired cover versions ever. The version of Marvin Gaye's 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' is a wonder. Deep and dubby with great guitar work from Albertine, Ari changes the lyrics to 'I Heard It Through My Bass Line' and warbles magnificently.
The cover may have caused a certain amount of controversy but the album should be remembered for much more than that. It still sounds fresh today and has attracted a new fan in my girlfriends seven year old daughter who loves this album. She plays in over and over again and knows all the words to the songs.
Ari and Tessa have recently started gigging again with a new line-up, including Paul Cook's daughter on backing vocals. There is no news of a return to the UK yet but we live in hope.
One interesting footnote to The Slits story and to add another Sex Pistols connection Ari's mother is married to John Lydon.