The Slits - Trapped Animal

Ian Atherton 04/11/2009

Rating: 4/5

Good things come to those who wait.

It's been 28 years since the last Slits album, 1981's hit-and-miss Return Of The Giant Slits, which came two years after the band's sacrosanct debut Cut. That album influenced a whole generation of feminists and post-punkers, and is still regularly cited as one of the most important records of all time, if not the most technically proficient. The Slits Mark I were all about the attitude, the look, the musical openmindedness yet almost total incompetence…

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The Slits Mark II change little, save for a bit of studio sheen. Original frontwoman Ari Up and bassist Tessa Pollitt are joined by a ragtag collective including former Sex Pistol Paul Cook's daughter Mollie, and sound just as reactionary, if not revolutionary, as before. Opener Ask Ma sets the scene - ominous reggae-ska topped with inpenetrably and occasionally embarassingly feminist lyrics (“To pick up shit after men repeatedly time and time again, I refuse, they're not helpless, like babes who make a worse mess”).

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Some of the best moments here evoke the spirit of the band's previous incarnation, and you wonder how we've coped all this time without them. Peer Pressure is brilliantly deranged, an array of whoops and animal noises ushering in a horn-tinged skank that ranks alongside their best work, while Trapped Animal is terrifyingly energetic and the deeply dubby Babylon goes nowhere gorgeously. Though it's difficult at times not to be put off by Ari Up's peculiar accent (a result of her German birth and time living in Jamaica), there's much to admire in her brashly confrontational lyrics. Though sometimes clumsy, they're always interesting and righteously feminist, as in the self-explanatory Partner From Hell, and Pay Rent, a call to ignore money and follow your dreams.

Too many kooks spoil the broth.

It's somehow almost pleasing to note that occasionally Ari Up is so far off the scale of normality it's simply impossible to keep up with her. The baffling Reggae Gypsy is impossible to hear without stifling a giggle (“I am a reggae gypsy, can make you feel so tipsy”), and while Issues rolls along with an almost beautiful lollop, it's topped with clunking lyrics about child abuse. But though Trapped Animal isn't a consistent or coherent album, there's more than enough quality amongst all the madness to satisfy fans and newcomers alike.

All's well that ends well.