Thirty years after they turned punk and dub reggae on their ears, The Slits are back with Trapped Animal, sounding as uncompromising and relevant as ever. Essentially the first all-girl British punk group to make a mark, The Slits blew a hole in the boys' club of British punk and held their own with touring mates The Clash, Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks.
The current Slits sound remarkably like the original Slits, but with fewer rough edges and more instrumental sophistication. Original vocalist Ari Up and bass player Tessa Pollitt are joined by three new players, including keyboard player Hollie Cook, daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. On Trapped Animal, The Slits mix poppy, dubby reggae and danceable rock-reggae with articulate but streetwise dreadlocked British feminist ideology.
The Slits have a great sense of humor; fun and levity go along with their sloganeering, which is a very good thing when pretty much every song is message-driven. It's right there in the song titles: "Pay Rent," "Peer Pressure," "Babylon," "Partner From Hell," etc. "You've got issues / of child abuse / I've got them, too / but not like you" ("Issues") is a fairly typical opening line.
It remains to be seen whether Trapped Animal will fill dance floors and car stereos worldwide, but the point is it could; it's catchy, and the sentiment is hard-core, but somehow, it's not preachy. Therein lies the beauty of Trapped Animal: It's simultaneously inviting and challenging, which has pretty much been the M.O. for The Slits since day one.