#260: Cut, The Slits
We listen to a wide variety of music in the Clifton household. That’s the consequence of centering my life around music. For me, it’s one of the great delights of life. I can’t get enough of all the different ways that people have expressed themselves through noise over the years. From Patti Smith to Patsy Cline to Rihanna to the Stooges to Oasis to Sum 41. I just want to inject it straight into my veins.
Sometimes, I forget that not everyone feels that way.
Over the course of this past year, my fish, dog, and boyfriend have had to suffer, which they do gracefully. (Well, he does. She’s a brat.) Sometimes it’s not suffering, sometimes it’s a good time — the Beastie Boys is going over quite well, with all of us bobbing our heads, even the dog calmed down enough for me to take a breath. The Slits did not play over nearly as well.
Lead singer Ari Up is certainly an acquired taste. There were times I found her grating on songs like “Newtown,” where she really, um, annunciates. “Ping Pong Affair” was a little annoying too, maybe more on the bratty side than is tolerable. And I’m a big proponent of famous “bratty” musicians like Kathleen Hanna (who, as I’ve mentioned before, was snubbed by the top 500 list by their omission of Bikini Kill’s Revolution Girl Style Now).
So yes, it took me more than a few listens for Cut to get me. But as always, my way in became my fascination with its place in history (1979, same year as London Calling, #16) and its snotty attitude. “Shoplifting” documents a real phenomenon among punk teen girls where they steal things they can afford to pay for, which is a heinous thing to do but admittedly funny when the Slits grandstand about it. “Spend, Spend, Spend” has the exact same attitude, with a style that reminded me a lot of the Clash and other reggae-inspired Britpop groups.
They do the thing where they make dark things like heroin and sexism a lot of fun. “Instant Hit” is a bummer that mocks heroin addicts set to a circus-style round. “So Tough” is mumbly and has one excellent shriek. The mutilation being broadcast over the airwaves in “FM” starts out with a rumbly drum intro and outro, subtly giving you violent urges for reasons you aren’t sure of. And “Love Und Romance” betrays Ari’s German accent with wild, semi-irritatiing trills and vocal flips.
The Slits are so punk and badass, and what’s more, they’re shrill. I appreciate that, because I’m so afraid of seeming shrill. I worry it holds me back. Listening to this album confirms that it does.
On the other hand, some people don’t like listening to shrill, shrieking people. Fair enough. An unwise man once said: “Something about that album was just … not good.”
Some people can’t hang. That’s the way life works.
“Typical Girls” — According to the blurb, Kurt Cobain called this song the best song ever recorded. My boyfriend called it “a song.” I loved it — they sound so obnoxious, epic and funny, like No Doubt’s “Just A Girl.” I love her intonation on the final lines, too: Just another marketing ploy/Typical girl gets the/Typical boyyyyyyeeeeee.
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” — I heard this cover for the first time in a hotel bar in Kansas City. Marvin Gaye’s version is hard to beat, of course, especially if you’ve seen the movie The Big Chill, but I love when a band takes a song and twists it into something fundamentally different.
“Adventures Close To Home.” Don’t take it personal/I choose my own fate/I follow love/I follow haaaaaaate. Oh my God, they say it a thousand times.
Also “Liebe And Romanze — Slow Version.” I didn’t mind the closer, but my dog started moaning halfway through it, and my boyfriend agreed with her.