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The Slits

Along with the Raincoats and Liliput, the Slits are one of the most significant female punk rock bands of the late '70s. Not only did they bravely (or foolishly, you be the judge) leap into the fray with little, if any, musical ability (on their debut tour with the Clash, Mick Jones used to tune their guitars for them), but through sheer emotion and desire created some great music. This was especially true when they worked with veteran reggae producer Dennis Bovell, setting the stage for a future generation of riot grrrls. Though much derided in their short existence, what the Slits achieved and what they meant to succeeding generations of young female rockers cannot be underestimated. The Slits formed in 1976 when 14-year-old Ari Up (sometimes Air Upp) ran into her friend Palmolive at a Patti Smith gig in London. The latter suggested the former consider becoming the lead singer for a new all-girl punk band. Up agreed on the spot, and the Slits, with borrowed equipment and knowledge of two, maybe three chords, were a reality. They made some crude recordings (so crude that they make early Mekons recordings sound like 64-track by comparison) that were never widely circulated, and it wasn't until they nabbed the opening spot on the Clash's White Riot tour of England in 1977 that the Slits became a part of the punk pantheon. Despite this sudden notoriety, little was recorded by the Slits in the early days, save for a couple of sessions of John Peel's BBC radio show. These recordings place the Slits firmly in the punk rock aesthetic of blaring guitars and braying vocals. But it's not generic-sounding rant: Up's voice bounces along, alternately hiccuping and bellowing to the stiff rhythms; the songs are meditations on alienation, but have a satiric, tongue-in-cheek quality instead of strident preachiness. It wasn't until 1979 that the Slits made their first proper record under the watchful, supportive eyes and ears of reggae vet Dennis Bovell. By the time Cut was released, the raging guitars were replaced by subtle reggae riddims, the band was now a trio (Palmolive had been replaced by new drummer Budgie, soon to join Siouxsie and the Banshees), and there was a stylistic suppleness that the Slits had heretofore never displayed. Up's voice still warbled uncertain of the key, but for a band that had been playing its instruments for a little more than two years, this is a remarkably confident record. It was two years before a second album was released (Return of the Giant Slits), which was denser, darker, and full of surprises. But the Slits, due primarily to their interest in incorporating other forms of ethnic music into their mix, were leaping beyond what was commonly accepted as punk rock and, as a result, were no longer seen as a punk band. This probably didn't distress them in the least, as they were more interested in expanding the barriers of punk rock rather than simply adhering to "rules" that claimed all punk bands must bash out simplistic guitar rant. By the close of 1981, Up was singing in Adrian Sherwood's dub/funk aggregation the New Age Steppers, and the Slits had become both legendary and somewhat notorious. After releasing a solo album -- Dread More Dan Dead -- in 2005, Up revived the Slits with Tessa Pollitt and new members and began gigging. The group released a three-song EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits, in 2006. The first new full-length Slits album in 28 years, Trapped Animal, appeared in 2009. ~ John Dougan
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Stations Featuring
The Slits

    Punk U

    Punk U
    1 song

Albums by
The Slits

Top Songs by
The Slits

  1.   Song
  2.   I Heard It Through the Grapevine
  3.   So Tough
  4.   Typical Girls
  5.   Earthbeat
  6.   Life on Earth
  7.   FM
  8.   Vaseline
  9.   Animal Space/Spacier
  10.   Pay Rent
  11.   Slime
  12.   Deutsche Earthbeat
  13.   Liebe and Romanze
  14.   Earthbeat Japan
  15.   Earthbeat Extra
  16.   Man Next Door
  17.   Or What It Is?
  18.   Earthbeat 12"
  19.   Dub Beat
  20.   Grapevine
  21.   Trapped Animals
  22.   Reggae Gypsy
  23.   Peer Pressure
  24.   Partner From Hell
  25.   Cry Baby
  26.   Can't Relate
  27.   Be It
  28.   Babylon
  29.   Enemy Numero Uno
  30.   Une Homme et un Slit
  31.   Walk About
  32.   In the Beginning, There Was Rhythm
  33.   Adventures Close to Home
  34.   Love und Romance
  35.   Ping Pong Affair
  36.   Spend, Spend, Spend
  37.   In the Beginning
  38.   Shoplifting
  39.   Love and Romance
  40.   Vindictive
  41.   Newtown
  42.   Instant Hit
  43.   Number One Enemy
  44.   Improperly Dressed
  45.   Difficult Fun
  46.   Reject
  47.   Ask Ma
  48.   Lazy Slam
  49.   Fade Away
  50.   Issues
  51.   Had A Day
  52.   Face Place
  53.   Begin Again Rhythm
  54.   Femme Fatale
  55.   WORT FM USA Interview
  56.   Split
  57.   A Boring Life
  58.   Face Dub

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