In the punk movie Jubilee, Derek Jarman cast the Slits as a wild girl gang marauding the streets of London. That was how the Slits liked to project themselves: as urban primitives who'd just picked up their instruments for the first time-- which most of them had. Viv Albertine, Ari Up, Tessa Pollite and Palmolive launched the Slits in 1977 (Albertine having already played in Flowers of Romance, a short-lived band with Sid Vicious and Keith Levene), thrashing out a gleeful punk-reggae pandemonium of loose rhythms, warbly unison vocals and proto-feministic lyrics.
Cut is the Slits' true masterpiece. Dubmeister Dennis Bovell's crisp and spacious production enables us to hear, for the first time, just how mutinous and eccentric the Slits' version of rock'n'roll is. Their music pulsates with the fitful biorhythms of adolescence. Continually shifting tempos lunge between bravado and hesitancy; girl-harmonies clash and overlap; guitars scrape and stutter. Every verse is an adventure full of unrepeatable collisions and unexpected noises ( a spoon dropping, coins clinking, vaporous voices from some distant radio).
"Typical Girls," the closest they get to an anthem, pokes wicked fun at conventional zombified females who "Don't create/ Don't rebel" but instead "worry about... unnatural smells." The songs' targets-- consumer capitalism, normative notions of romance and gender-- were standard issue in the post-punk era. But unlike their agit-pop contemporaries Gang of Four and the Au Pairs, the Slits inject their cultural critique with so much joyous abandon that they sound riotous, not righteous. "Shoplifting" transforms that most female form of delinquency into glorious liberation: "We pay FUCK ALL!" Ari's earth-shattering howl dissolves into bladder-busting hilarity as she giggles, "Ooh, I pissed in my knickers!"


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