I’m genuinely surprised at the negative reviews this disc has prompted. The (largely unwarranted) criticisms range from the lack of early interview and live footage (there is in fact a decent amount of both present, especially considering the general dearth of Slits material available from this period) the use of a music score rather than Slits songs throughout (doubtless due to licensing issues/costs) and even “unimaginatively shot” interviews (what does that even mean?). Sure it’s not perfect - how can you tell the story of The Slits without even mentioning John Peel (hence my poorly punned heading) and the legendary sessions the group recorded for his Radio 1 show in 1977 and 1978 (and often cited by the great man as being amongst his favourites), which served as the only recordings (poor quality bootlegs not withstanding) available until they signed to Island in 1979 and so proved vital in spreading the word to those of us outside the capital - but despite the deficiencies, it’s the best we’ve got so far/might ever get, and rather than carping about what we don’t get, we should celebrate what we do, along with the fact that it exists at all. Of the classic line-up, Tessa is most closely involved (with her treasured yellowing scrapbooks serving as a linking device) so she takes centre stage, while, conversely, Viv’s contributions are noticeably limited, perhaps feeling she’d said what she wanted in her first book (or was maybe saving it for the second); and obviously there’s an Ari-sized hole in all of this as she was tragically taken from us as the project was being put together, though her indomitable spirit and exuberance shine through in various clips from across the years. Original drummer Palmolive does make a significant contribution despite still clearly feeling some hurt at her (r)ejection from the band, and it’s great to hear from early guitarist Kate Korris and even earlier bassist Suzy Gutsy, as well as members of the reformed Slits. Personally I’d have liked to have heard more from honorary Slits Budgie & Bruce Smith, but this is the untypical girls’ story so it’s only right the boys take a back seat. And I’d have liked a lot more on CUT too (bought on the day of release, it immediately became my all-time favourite album and remains so to this day) - and there is a welcome interview with Dennis Bovell - but I guess I’ll just have to continue to hope it’ll one day get the full CLASSIC ALBUMS treatment it so richly deserves. So there’s certainly no padding here and at 85 minutes it never threatens to outstay its welcome. Regarding the Extras – there’s no sign of the commentary promised on the Pledge Music page, and while there’s nothing essential (mostly longer versions of footage dispersed throughout the documentary, plus more pages from Tessa’s scrapbooks) it’s still worth the extra couple of quid if you’re a fan. [And John Peel does finally get a mention as Tessa quotes from a music press piece he wrote preserved in one of her scrapbooks, declaring him “The person who helped us the most” (seemingly just not enough to make it into the main feature!).] As far removed from the usual BBC4 dad-rock nostalgia doc. as you’d want and expect from such a unique and iconoclastic group, Slits fans should ignore the naysayers and decide for themselves.
FOOTNOTE: Okay, in truth it’s probably only worth 4 stars but I’ve given it 5 in a blatant attempt to boost the overall average Amazon rating to a more fitting level!
It starts out as a celebration...the opening scenes are of the girls taking a car apart piece by piece from the Jubilee Film...at the end it all becomes a little melancholy, as Ari asks for a reformation, but only Tessa wants to play. Then Ari gets ill....and doesn't tell anyone but soldiers on giving it 200%. Theres a contribution from Palmolive and Viv, but i get the feeling most of this is driven by Tessa and her lovely ageing scrapbook. Fleeting appearances from the two male drummers..Budgie and Bruce Smith...and Don Letts, Dennis Bovell get to the Roots of the slits. Theres some nice archve film, courtesy of The Punk Rock movie and I'm sure other bits of Don Lett's handywork. It is what it is... a tribute to the band that as Vivien Goldman felt, had been kind of airbrushed out of history...and was quite emotional about it too. Not so in our house....but maybe its not a "Typical" House. Girl Power......jeez .....forget Madonna and please please please please forget the Spice Girls...These girls were the real deal. Worth reading the biography of the band by Zoe Howe...and a must would be the Viv Albertine book ...girls boys etc etc which will bring all this together quite nicely You might need to get the Peel sessions album for a real taste of the angry side of the band, The Cut album certainly shows what they could do, but the shouty agressiveness had by then given over to more chilled out vibes ! The CBS album Return of The Giant Slits...took them even further into the experimental universe. Play Vindictive ....very loud.
I've been a massive fan of this great band since their inception in the 'old-guard' days. Their propensity for outrageous musical ambition was equalled only by their live performances. They unfortunately didn't stick to the flame of their ambitions and the band dwindled to nothing until Ari decided to give it another bash. The original band never did reform and in hindsight it was probably a chance for the then dying Ari-Up to give a swan song. This documentary does chart the bands raucous beginning (and life) but just lacks the 'fire in the belly' which drove their engine. A disappointment.
Some great early footage and photos, but can’t help feeling we are shown only a fraction of the whole. Ok, sadly Ari is no longer with us, but as the loudest spokesperson for this crazy group, surely some excerpts of interviews with her could have been included? It feels like she has been censored! The bulk of the documentary seems to be based around Tessa’s scrapbook which is great, but I’d love to have seen more live performances, early band interviews, stories about the recording and writing, input from other people outside the band who worked with them or were influenced by them. And more music from The Slits should be included! Another complaint; the “Extras” are not even worth looking at!! Why not include longer live performances, videos for singles, interviews?
Capturing the story of this most personally and musically daring of bands was always going to be like trying to bottle lightning, and I think William E. Badgley has only partly succeeded here. This seems to be due on the one hand to factors beyond his control - mainly an apparent lack of available good-quality footage from The Slits' unstoppable '79 to '81 period - but also a generally plodding feel to the documentary as a whole. Despite all the surviving key group members and collaborators being present, the interviews are mostly unimaginatively shot and the sound design is similarly uninspired, the Slits material being interspersed with what sounds like generic library music (down to budget constraints, I'm guessing), blandly incongruous alongside the vibrant eclecticism of The Slits at their peak. The film does manage to convey the original members' feeling of loss at the group's break-up in 1982 as well as a poignant sense that very few artists have really taken up their fearless groundbreaking in the years since. But, ultimately, the Slits story is much more excitingly brought to life by Zoe Howe's biography and Viv Albertine's first memoir.