Record Review: The Slits Double Peel Sessions UK CD

Strange Fruit ‎| UK | CD | 1989 | SFPMACD 207

The Slits: The Peel Sessions UK CD [1989]

  1. Love And Romance
  2. Vindictive
  3. New Town
  4. Shop Lifting
  5. So Tough
  6. Instant Hit
  7. FM

I first heard The Slits on WPRK-FM college radio in maybe 1980-81. They played their amazing cover of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” from the B-side of the “Typical Girls” single. I soon bought this album, which compiled that track on it and for some years, that was the only Slits in my Record Cell. My loss, I know.

<flash forward 8 years…>

Then in 1989, my friend Ron Kane had moved to England to work at an import company for a year or so, so I bought lots of books, CDs and VHS tapes from his catalog. Some of the first things I bought were newly pressed CDs [finally] from The Slits. I got the first issue of “Cut” and also this CD of Peel Sessions vol. 1 and 2. I had since seen the amazing “Typical Girls” video thanks to Ron’s efforts, and I needed more than the amazing Marvin Gaye cover! “Cut” was vastly different in sound, being informed by dub reggae, as the song “Typical Girls” had pointed towards. Like many punks of the time, they had their heard turned big time by reggae, and quickly moved away from the loud + fast brigade. But I found that the Peel Sessions disc, captured the band earlier in their career, when they were not yet influenced by reggae. It was a fascinating glimpse of the punk band of legend before they moved onward and upward.

“Love And Romance” was like little else I’d heard before, The mototrik tattoos of drums were graced with animalistic coos, trills, and squeals from the unique Ari Up as she portrayed an instinctual and animalistic response to the tried and true concept of a love song. The scary thing was, that I did not think she was being ironic. She came across like a feral creature, thoroughly transformed by her ardor. Admitting that if she called her lover and they were not at home she would break their neck.

“Vindictive” did manage to hew closer to the punk ideal of fast tempos, but “New Town” adopted the slow then fast tempo shifts of that more famous heroin song by Lou Reed. The frantic tempo shifts of “Shop Lifting” were even more jarring and when accompanied by the shrieks of the band, downright thrilling and chaotic.

The see-sawing guitar of Viv Albertine made for an impactful foundation to the booming “So Tough” that came the closest to punk orthoxy that the band touched upon here. The atonal bass solo by Tessa Pollitt in the coda led into the cold ending that managed to raise the shock level. The martial drums of “Instant Hit” combined with the massed vocal attack where the song barely managed to skate the edge of chaos and hold together for its two and a half minutes. The closing mass media put down of “FM” vacillated between being the most tuneful thing here on its chorus yet still with an awkwardly juxtaposed verse structure that made huge leaps in meter for a bracing effect.

These Peel Sessions managed to capture the early punk form of The Slits before branching out into dub reggae, and as such, give us the ability to hear the band who managed to make a name for themselves in the punk rock era, but who famously escaped being signed to a label and ended up waiting two years to finally get signed to Island Records and record their debut album. Possibly due to sexism? Let’s not forget that even Siouxsie + The Banshees were the subject of a public opinion campaign to have that band signed after the labels were seen as dragging their feet… possibly due to a woman fronting the band. Yes, the good old days were great, as long as you were a man. Meanwhile, The Slits were crafting potent smart bombs of their songs and ignoring any perceived limitations whether working in the punk or reggae idiom.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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8 Responses to Record Review: The Slits Double Peel Sessions UK CD

  1. Funny – I love The Slits but have never heard these tracks. I now see many of them were on the deluxe edition of Cut, which I always meant to buy. I got to see them live a couple of years after Cut and it still stands as one of the best reggae shows I’ve ever seen even if they weren’t a reggae band per se!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jeremy Shatan – The DLX RM of “Cut” is now two solid figures. I’ll content myself with this and the ’89 “Cut” CD. You should hear this as it’s not the same band as two years later.


  2. Michael says:

    can’t seem to find the cd version on discogs. Am I blind?


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