As a long time fan of the Slits, I was delighted when this book was published, as for far too long the band's story has been shrouded in mystery. Now finally here's a chance to lay it all on the line, or almost all...
The first three quarters of this book is excellent. Author Zoë Street Howe had unfettered access to the main trio of Ari Up, Viv Albertine and Tessa, plus ex-members like guitarist Kate Korus, and drummer Palmolive, along with various managers, friends and colleagues, all of whom make fine contributions.
Howe explores in great detail the formation of the group, early gigs (notably the Clash's `White Riot' tour), that first legendary Peel session, the departure of Palmolive, and most importantly how the Slits worked to hone their music from it's original punk thrash into the stripped down, dub oriented sound that they are known for; refusing to sign to any label until the music was absolutely right. They finally signed to Island, and with producer Dennis Bovell started work on the classic album "Cut" (1979) Cut
. Again, Howe goes into fascinating detail about the making of the album, with plenty of input from Bovell. There is also a full insight into that infamous cover shot - the girls blame the sumptuous meals that were served at the studios for the reason they look slightly chubby in the photo!
Following the album came successful tours of the UK and US, but it is at this point that the book begins to fail, as Howe races through the Slits last couple of years. The controversial but fascinating album, `Bootleg Retrospective" (1980) is dismissed in a few lines; I would have liked to have known a lot more about it and the origins of various tracks. There is also no mention of the fact that Y Records distributor Rough Trade hated the album and refused to give it a RT catalogue number. Also missing is the `Beat The Blues Festival'. Held in London in June 1980, it was headlined by the Slits, along with the Pop Group, Raincoats, Essential Logic, Au Pairs, John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson. A post-punk line-up to die for!
The Slits second proper album "Return Of The Giant Slits" (1981) Return of the Giant Slits
sadly does not get the same in-depth coverage as "Cut" which is another great shame as it does represent a genuine step forward for the band and their music.
By the beginning of 1982 it was all over for the Slits as they went their separate ways, but Howe doesn't bother to go into any real detail about their post-Slits lives and careers. Another missed opportunity.
I suspect there were marketing pressures to get this book finished and published in time to tie in with the release of the Slits 2009 reunion album.Trapped Animal
It's a decision that has damaged what should have been the final word on the jungle sisters.