Originally published in Spinner, April 28, 2009
by David Chiu
The Slits, one of the first British female punk bands from the ’70s, just recorded a brand new album — their first full-length studio effort in almost 30 years. Due out possibly this summer, the new record, tentatively titled ‘Trapped Animal,’ is on the heels of a reunion from a few years ago that featured original singer Ari Up and longtime bassist Tessa Pollitt.
“We’ve always wanted to do an album,” Up tells Spinner. “We just never had a chance to. Apparently we’re still a revolution and we’re still a threat to society. So now we got the album finally, which we’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but we didn’t have the money to do it. We got signed to a record deal [with Narnack Records], and that’s why we did the album.”
Up says the new record is a continuation of the original Slits, whose sound was both punk and dub. “It sticks to the roots of what we are,” she says, “but it’s surprisingly very modern and very new. Which is no surprise to me because I’m aware that we’re modern. It’s very futuristic but it’s also got the roots of what we started.”
Songs that will be on the new album include ‘Peer Pressure’ (about feeling like an outcast in school), ‘Issues’ (which tackles the subject of abuse), ‘Pay Rent’ and ‘Trapped Animal.’ “That song is so great,” says Up about the last track. “It’s so Slits-y and so crazy. The song is about humans being trapped.”
The new album may come out in the summer, depending on whether it will be distributed in Europe or the U.S. first. In Up’s opinion, the Slits seem to identify more with America than England these days because of the riot grrrl movement. “It created a mythology about the Slits,” she says. “We became legendary.”
Up formed the Slits with then-drummer Palmolive in 1976. As one of the earliest female punk bands, the Slits weren’t seriously accepted at first. However, Up says: “We didn’t give a f—, to tell you the truth. We just want to know that we’re free and we do what the hell we want to do. No one tells us how to do it or what to do it. That’s what we cared about. And we’re still like that, I think.”
The Slits, who opened for the Clash’s ‘White Riot’ tour in 1977, released ‘Cut’ (1979). In addition to the music, the album is distinguishable for its cover photograph of the band members appearing topless and covered in mud. “We were surrounded by trees and good food,” Up remembers about that photo session in the English countryside. “That’s why our bellies are big because we were eating a lot of good food. We were into the idea of feeling tribal and natural.”
After a second album, ‘Return of the Giant Slits,’ the group broke up in 1981. Up, who became a mother, continued to pursue music and recorded a solo album, ‘Dread More Dan Dead,’ in 2005. Around that time, Up and Pollitt reformed the band with new players. (Former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine is not involved in the reunion or the new album). “I was touring in England and then Tessa came to my gigs,” recalls Up. “You just can’t leave an unfinished mission like that.” The reformed Slits then released an EP, ‘Revenge of the Killer Slits,’ in 2006, and have performed live.
In the addition to this new album, a book about the band, ‘Typical Girls,’ written by Zoe Street Howe, is scheduled to be published this fall. Asked if she is amazed about the band’s influence after 30 years, Up responds: “I’m very honored, flattered and grateful for it. It’s something that can’t be taken for granted, we have to use it. People need a group like the Slits. That’s why it’s happening.”