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The Slits, the Apes, Life Partners, Squids, and Adrian Orange, Great Scott, October 30, 2006

10/31/2006 5:30:09 PM

The Slits were a band attached to a time and a place. The Clash’s Mick Jones tuned their guitars when they didn’t know how to do it themselves. They had a Peel Session before everyone had one. Vocalist Ari Up’s mother was (and still is) married to Johnny Rotten. A reunion seemed bleak at best and nonsensical at worst. No doubt on the strength of their classic 1979 album Cut, the Slits (okay, original bassist Tessa Pollitt, Up, and four scabs) drew a packed house at Great Scott last night.

The evening opened with Adrian Orange, (a/k/a Thanksgiving) playing his trademark fractured pop. He’s the heir apparent to the “skinny, handsome pop musician affecting awkwardness” throne. I mean that as a compliment. The set differed from his typical stripped-down solo material with the addition of Washington-based backing band Lake.

Next were Boston locals Squids. The all-female post-punk outfit takes its most obvious cues from modern acts such as Erase Errata, but the foundation of their sound lay firmly with the night’s headliners. The Squids’ bass player noted that the show “was a night where [they] have to acknowledge who inspired [them].”


The Apes
Life Partners, another local band, followed. The group — made up of drums, guitar (or, more accurately, a clear Flying V), trumpet, a floodlight, and two keyboards — played what could be construed as either noisy rock played by a pop band or pop played by a crazy person. The final undercard act was Washington DC’s the Apes, who play heavy, riff-oriented rock with a Hammond organ and shrill, soulful vocals. They performed their style competently, but at around minute twenty-five of near-falsetto, I got the idea.

At about 12:30, the Slits took the stage. The two original members were trying their best to look the ages of their younger companions, but Up’s waist-length curly dreadlocks and Pollitt’s baggy black hockey jersey did little to assuage the audience’s concerns. The band only played three songs from Cut and the set was very heavy on Up’s reggae and dub influence, even diving into her strictly dancehall solo material.

During the duller points of the set, my attention focused itself on the younger members of the band. I have never seen a performer want to be on stage less than the lead guitarist of the reunited Slits. At one point, Up asked her to play a solo during a song and I swear I saw her roll her eyes. During the would-be encore, Up admitted that the group had not rehearsed any of the Slits’ other older material, and after being dragged out following an a cappella dancehall performance by Up, the band played “Shoplifting” for a second time.

If I had left before the Slits played, the show would have been one of the best I’d seen in months. Like the more enthusiastic guitarist’s choice of headwear, though, the reunion smacked of velour, leopard-printed attempts at recapturing youth.

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I'm the photographer who shot this show for The Phoenix and I'll keep this short as, if a picture is worth a thousand words, I've already gone on for way too long. This show by The Slits was a hell of a lot of fun. Of all of the oldschool punk reunions I've seen (and I've seen them all), few if any groups resurrected by any original members have so effortlessly held so much in common with the band that went by the same name in the 1970s. The Slits' set held plenty of false starts to songs, an atmosphere of being gleefully under-rehearsed and there was nothing that came across as opportunistic or as cynically selling out. Ari Up hasn't changed a lot and Tessa Pollitt, the other original member, added authenticity and seriously solid bass-playing to the festivities. Hearing "Shoplifting" twice was a treat, not a trick. It's one of the best anthems to come out of punk and, played live at Great Scott, it was executed with the speed of a hand stuffing that package of cheddar into a jacket in Mr. Packy's convenience store. We NEEDED to hear it again. Commentary on the physical aging or appearances of Ms. Up and Ms. Pollitt are unnecessary and uncalled for. If they want to recreate the first album cover again, 30 years later, naked and smeared with mud for a forthcoming release, I'd be happy to do it. True, the lead guitarist seemed moody and joyless onstage but this is the new Slits and if we wanted an all-female group pushing sickeningly sugary sweet ear candy at us and smiling way the fuck too much, we'd have stayed at home and watched the Spice Girls on Youtube.

POSTED BY John E. Coli Nikolai AT 11/02/06 1:57 PM

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