There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Back in July, Ari-Up of the Slits said in an interview that she hasn’t changed much since 1979—the year when she and her mud-splattered, ur–riot grrrl bandmates released Cut, a post-punk masterpiece that played a key role in ending punk rock’s sausage party. But that sentiment doesn’t exactly jibe. In the nearly three decades that have elapsed between the Slits’ last true full-length, 1981’s Return of the Giant Slits and its current reunion album, Trapped Animal, the former Arianna Forster has seen countless social advances for the movement that she was a part of—including the hanging of her photograph in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Which is to say that even if Ari-Up and Tessa Pollitt (the only returning original Slits) haven’t changed much, the world around them certainly has. And so the members of the Slits are faced with the same question that every reunited act has to deal with: How can we possibly still be relevant? Only here, given the very particular relationship that the band had to its times, a reunion is even more problematic. Worse, what could have saved the band—namely, a musical approach that might have given its audience a reason to listen again—proves totally elusive. Even the best parts of Trapped Animal are mere recollections of the Slits’ former glory. “Reject” is a (not-post-) punky, Sex Pistols–esque number that finds the band employing John Lydon’s trademark vocal trills over a pounding three-chord backing that might have found its way on to a B-Side and rarities comp from the band’s earlier incarnation. And “Can’t Relate” is vaguely reminiscent of the Slits’ former ability to shoehorn dub, reggae, pop, and punk into one track. But the rest of the album suffers from the fact that Ari-Up has, in more recent years, fully tilted toward the island side of things (as collectively evidenced by the canned horns on “Ask Me”) and, more detrimentally, that everyone involved now seems incapable of any sort of subtlety or grace. So far removed from its original context, the Slits reunion needed to be fueled by the band’s former ability to both provoke and temper. That it’s not appears to only serve as testimony to the fact that—despite what Ari-Up may think—things have definitely changed.