Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
The Slits are the best post-punk band that many have never heard of. Even so, they’re more “punk” than most punk bands were at the time. They were so punk that they could hardly even play their instruments; so punk that on their first tour opening for the Clash, Mick Jones had to tune their guitars for them beforehand. Yet somehow, the group’s inverted, razor-sharp take on post-punk and dub transcends many groups of the era, and their debut album, 1978’s Cut, is considered one of the truly seminal albums of the time. They sound like Wire and the B-52’s made a supergroup with Nico as the singer (even though Cut predated the B-52’s debut by an entire year.)
One of only two official albums released during their career, Cut is over thirty minutes of fiercely rhythmic, guitar driven anomalies of music. This is immediately made clear to the listener with the record’s first song, “Instant Hit”, which is in 5/4 time and not really worthy of a hit at all. As the saying goes, though, not all hits are great songs and not all great songs are hits, and “Instant Hit” proves to be of the later category. The song is actually about the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and his drug addiction: “He is a boy/He’s very thin/Until tomorrow/Took heroin/Don’t like himself very much/’Cause he has set to set to self-destruct”, sings Ari Up through a cacophony of percussive guitar played by Viv Albertine and ultra-stark drums played by Budgie. Vocals pan all around the ears. Many of the albums tracks, like “Spend, Spend, Spend”, “Newtown”, and “Love und Romance” share these intricate qualities (Fun, fun, fun/I’m having fun,” she chants on the later.)
The other standout song on the album is “Typical Girls”. This is the album’s true radio ready pop gem (if there has to be one, that is.) “Typical girls stand by their man/Typical girls are really swell/Typical girls learn how to act shocked/Typical girls don’t rebel. In an album that is chockfull of feminism – as the Slits were one of the first truly feminist bands – this lyric stands as the mission statement of an album that attempts to disarm the patriarchy (and obviously certain parts of the matriarchy.) Up, Albertine, and bass player Tessa Pollitt are clearly not “typical girls”. Kurt Cobain even named “Typical Girls” as one of his top fifty favorite songs.
Albeit relatively unknown to some, there may not be a female band more relevant in today’s world than the Slits. They predated many female or female-led groups, save for Blondie and others, but they gave breath and life to the B-52’s, the Sugarcubes (Björk), and Sleater-Kinney, among many others. The Slits never again achieved the pinnacle of their debut, but Cut has rightfully earned its place among the most important albums of the late 70’s and the punk movement.