Agony Shorthand

Thursday, May 13, 2004
THE SLITS : “RADIO SESSIONS & LIVE AT ERIC’S 1977” CD....You know how first impressions go. If my wife has relied on first impressions the first times I met her, I’d be sitting in a gutter somewhere right now, lonely and terrified, instead of typing smarmy, self-referential record reviews on the world wide web. If I had relied on first impressions the first time I heard CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, I’d have a big blown hole in my record collection between “CAM” (Cameo, of course) and “CAR” (The Cars, naturally), a deep void that would render any credibility I’d accrued instantly worthless. Such it is with THE SLITS. I had always figured these ladies to be mediocre hangers-on to the 1977 London punk scene, more famous for being the first all-GIRL band in an exploding scene than to be a band of any merit on their own. A couple of listens to their LP “Cut” back in college cemented these first impressions. I was driven away by what I remember as dubby wank-arounds, loopy, affected vocals and a pretty surefire case of musical ineptitude permeating the whole tribal punk/tubthumping mess. I filed them with The Clash and 999 and all the other lame-o UK bands of the era that got proximity points but who did zero for me musically.

Then, years and years later, I hear this collection, a CD procured from Paul Marko’s UK Punk 1977 web site. Is this the same band? THESE Slits are fired-up scratching and snarling punk vixens, bashing out fast and dirty punk with great shouted harmonies and a sound that’s at least 6 months beyond the “learning to play” vibe they put forth a year later. What’s up with that? This band is just 1-2-3-4 spot-on with their blazing live set and sound like a blast of fresh air on par with the other titans of the era. It may very well be that these John Peel sessions and a well-recorded October 1977 live show represent the band at their naïve, rocking best, a stance that turned on a dime when punk rock quickly became passé & the band ventured out into the great unknown of African tribalism and disco influences. That’s my theory, anyway, but would appreciate someone else’s take on THE SLITS. I’ve barely read anything positive about them in 25 years beyond a bunch of lumping-in with the usual 1977 suspects.