Release Date: Oct 20, 2009
Record label: Narnack
Genre(s): Rock, Punk
For all their punk cred, though, the first thing one notices about Trapped Animal is how damn professional it sounds. That's not a pejorative statement, simply an observation about how far the band has come from its unschooled, rough-and-ready beginnings. Not only is the reggae influence that's always been at the core of the Slits sound more concentrated than ever here, easily dominating the proceedings; more strikingly, Ari and company sound like a legit reggae band -- albeit a quirky one -- locking into their one-drop grooves like seasoned Studio One pros.
The Slits' place in pop history was assured by 1979's seminal Cut, with its fusion of punk, reggae and teenage vocalist Ari Up's spiky neo-feminist manifestos. No surprise, then, that the group hasn't drifted far from that blueprint for their first album in 28 years. In the current era of politically untroubled pop, it's fairly bracing to hear them castigating "Men who need us to be their mother, or who hate us because of their mother" within the first minute.
Someone once told me he didn’t think politics and music worked together. I responded that he should listen more closely to the Clash and the Dead Kennedys. I might’ve added the Slits. In case you’re a newcomer, possibly lured by the punk group’s provocative name, the Slits were/are a seminal British punk act.
"The new album is really just another third recorded album. It's just a continuation of the Slits." That's Ari Up, in a Pitchfork news interview, giving folks a hint on what to expect, or perhaps not expect, from Trapped Animal. Up also told us the Slits were adding dancehall to their burgeoning bag of tricks-- which is to say, some longtime fans who weathered the sea change between Cut's punky reggae party and the murky dubbed-out Return of the Giant Slits might not be following Jamaican music and the Slits into the digital age.
It’d be churlish to expect precocious post-punk priestesses [a]The Slits[/a], teenage underminers of [a]Sex Pistols[/a]’ cocky masculinity, to stay caged in the past. The primitive, untutored musical naivety that made songs like [b]‘Typical Girls’[/b] so idiosyncratic and interesting couldn’t last. What wouldn’t be churlish, though, is to expect them to keep pushing themselves.
Trapped Animal lacks the raw energy, sense of youth, and naivete that make the original Slits albums appealing. The band, upgraded from a trio to a quintet with the addition of some young talent, attempts to recapture something of the band's punk sound but instead comes off amateurish. Even with slick production the instrumentation is lackluster, missing that rattling punk energy; in their overt politics and complete lack of subtlety, the lyrics are trite.