THE SLITS Cut (4 Men With Beards)
Stripped-down and angular, like Gang Of Four with even more melodic rigour, and with a dub pulse coursing through its elastic rhythms, The Slits’ debut album barely sounds thirty years old. Its spiked with disarming details that keep it refreshing, such as the round-like vocals and recorder that give the anti-drug “Instant Hit” an almost schoolyard feel. The pro-shoplifting “Shoplifiting” is all cheerful anti-consumerist primal yelling, ending abruptly like something by Minutemen or Young Marble Giants: these songs go on as long as they need to, but not a moment more. ”Newtown” might be the ultimate expression of their style. It’s spacey and innovative musically (using found objects such as a striking match as percussion) and lyrically (“Newtown/Where everybody goes around sniffing televisena/Or talking footbalina”), building its critique of the alienating effects of urban planning in a new language forged from familiar elements. The white reggae of “Ping Pong Affair” could be the interlocking other half of The Police’s “Can’t Stand Losing You” – compare “Well you can take your records back” here with “I see you’ve sent my letters back/And my LP records and they’re all scratched” over there. Its scathing, almost atonal performance is warmed with humanising touches, for example the way Ari Up turns the line “Listen to the radio” into a chirruping twitter and coughs around the phrase “Smoke a cigarette”. “Love Und Romance” bounces like Tigger, almost making the listener giddy, all the better to contemplate the lyrics’ queasy obsession. Wisely selected as a single, “Typical Girls” grazed the top 60, an irresistible rush of sugar-coated, arsenic-laced pop and boinging basslines, its lyrics skewering magazine dreams of consumer conformity.
“Cut” belies its punk origins by being pretty well recorded, not that you’d know from 4 Men With Beards’ typically slapdash vinyl reissue, spoiled by a sibilant, strident sound.