The Slits, Cut

Eric Weisbard

By Eric Weisbard

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Skank has two meanings and in 1979 the Slits parodied both, wearing little more than mud on their infamous album cover while merging punk and reggae in a gawky fashion that has remained a cool touchstone ever since. Vocalist Ari Up, guitarist Viv Albertine and bassist Tessa Pollitt (along with male drummer Budgie), working with Linton Kwesi Johnson producer Dennis Bovell, used the multi-racked spacial separations of dub to hector, taunt, scream and insinuate their gleeful feminist critiques from every possible angle.

Sliced-up punk with fire and vigor — we think there’s nothing “typical” about it!

The Slits weren't, however, melodists (Lilliput/Kleenex, who spoke a similarly atonal dialect, at least had the excuse of being Swiss). Arguably, though, that's the Slits 'appeal: you don't fully absorb their tracks as much as glean them in fierce fragments. "It came completely out of nowhere, this weird, self-taught organic thing," Albertine would later recall. "As we became more aware, we didn't want to follow male rhythms and structures." Still, it's nice to have the addition here of the Motown standard "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," so you can appreciate exactly how the Slits were rewriting pop: turning monologue into dialogue, rendering the familiar strange, imagining not crossover but crossings over and out.