One of the first female punk bands of the late seventies was the Slits. Never heard of them? You should. They toured with better known acts such as the Clash and White Riot, but did not gain the long-term fame and attention of their tour mates. Koch Records has recently reissued their 1979 recording Cut on CD with two bonus tracks, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Liebe and Romanze.”
When the band formed in 1976, none of the members could play instruments very well, but thanks to the punk movement of the time, that was no impediment to their musical creation. Cut has minimal instrumentation, with heavy emphasis on vocals and percussion, but it works. The producer, Dennis Bovell, came from a reggae background, and this is evident in the recording. The combination of reggae and punk stylings with a feminist approach to rock music gives the recording its unique sound.
It is obvious that the Slits influenced many of the all-girl bands of the 80s like the Go-Go’s and others. The retro music revolution that is sweeping through modern indie bands should pause and take a page from the Slits, as well. Their use of repetitive musical and non-musical sounds, call-and-response, and emphasis on lyrical song crafting are techniques well worth paying attention to.
Don’t expect to find this band on your top 40 radio station or MTV (do they even show videos anymore?), but if the music directors at the college stations are paying attention, this reissue will be heating up the CMJ charts, if it isn’t already.