The Slits came together in London in 1976. Singer Ari Up and drummer Palmolive added Viv Albertine (guitar) and Tessa Pollitt (bass) to form the first all-female band on the British Punk scene. That none of these women could play their instruments was hardly a bother to them. That Ari Up's vocals randomly wobbled off-key and off-rhythm caused them no concern. They slashed and bashed and screeched and made music and got noticed - noticed enough to snag the opening band slot on The Clash's White Riot tour in 1977.
By the time they got around to actually recording their first album, Cut, in 1979, they had come a long way. Palmolive had left the band, and the remaining Slits had become involved with producer Dennis Bovell, who pulled their sound out of the slash-n-bang and into spacey reggae-dub, a sound which underscored the other-worldliness of Ari's trippy amateur-hour vocals. Cut is an unusual record, but an excellent one. From their exuberant (if unsteady) cover of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" to celebrations of "Shoplifting" and "Love Und Romance," there are no clinkers here. The centerpiece, though, is the loping, spiraling "Typical Girls." Here their lyrics still spit the anti-society Punk Rock mantra ("Just another marketing ploy/A typical girl gets a typical boy"), but the laid back reggae beat and half-finished feel of the song make the message far more palatable, and therefore more insidious, than had they snarled it like their safety-pinned contemporaries.
Two years later they released The Return of the Giant Slits, which saw the band exploring African and Asian music while continuing to make use of dub-reggae sensibilities. An OK record for what it is, but nothing near the grandeur of Cut. With that, The Slits went their separate ways until reuniting in 2005. Once again they took their time about recording; their third lp, Trapped Animal, appeared four years later, in 2009.
This week's NW4NW entry is the amazingly wonderful "Typical Girls" from Cut. Enjoy!