[TypicalGirls] Pitchfork review of Return of the Giant Slits

WWWhatsup joly at punkcast.com
Fri Mar 21 14:29:36 EDT 2008


Return of the Giant Slits is a slippery, glorious mess that
will infuriate anyone expecting the Slits to revisit their
debut. The nervous energy that powered Cut is seemingly
replaced with a relaxed smoked-out vibe that belies the
group putting their Jamaican influences-- as well as their
interest in other world musics-- front and center. At
times, this might make the record sound like aimless
noodling, the band just biding time on the label's dime
while someone behind the mixing board packs a new bowl.
However, while this tact has little in common with the pogo
grind essayed by their more traditional punk rock
contemporaries, they're right in line with the off-the-wall
antics of their more open-minded countrymen, like This Heat
and especially the Pop Group. For Return, it's not a case
of less energy, but repurposed energy.

The inclusion of Pop Group drummer Bruce Smith in the group
has a lot to do with the album's success. He provides a
deceptively primal backbeat that meshes perfectly with the
odd angles the group explores. On "Earthbeat", he pounds
out a simple tribal beat, a fine backdrop for the song's
two-note bass motif and Ari's environmentally-conscious
warbling. He's just as comfortable providing a grounding
rocksteady shuffle for "Difficult Fun" and "Or What It Is?"
as he is following the group's shambling muses into the
ether (as on "Animal Space/ Spacier"). Viv Albertine's
guitar playing, already fragmented and skittish, is even
more skeletal here, her scratches and stabs flitting about
the record's periphery (aside from some wah-wah work on
"Walkabout"). On the other hand, Return's rhythmic bent
allows Tessa Politt's loping and nimble basslines to take
center stage. And amidst the flourishes of melodica and
trumpet is Ari Up's unmistakable croon, attacking the songs
the way one would expect a five-year-old to approach them--
shamelessly singing notes for the sake of the notes instead
of for the sake of some stodgy old melody. While the
lyrics, moving from personal to global concerns, might not
pack as much punch as they once did-- don't hurt yourself
trying to delve deep into song-long couplets like
"Difficult fun is hard to come by/ And empty fun is easy to
find"-- it's the way she's saying what she says that
matters most. Return of the Giant Slits isn't as easy to
love as its predecessor, but it could turn out to be the
more rewarding album of the two.

Unfortunately, the extras tacked onto Return might make
that reward seem less valuable. Finally having this album
in print is a blessing in and of itself, and the label's
dedication to offering folks everything related to Return
is commendable from a completist's standpoint.
Unfortunately, there's not much in the vaults, which is why
the eight-track bonus disc contains FIVE versions of
"Earthbeat". Offering just "Dub Beat" (which sounds as you
would expect) and the version from the "Earthbeat" 12"
(which three minutes to the original's running time) would
have been plenty. But why stop there when you can have a
version sung in Japanese that sounds just like the 12"
version, a version sung in German that sounds like the
Japanese version, and an "extra" version that sounds almost
exactly like the version on the album proper? And then
there's a twelve-minute radio interview where the group
(stopping off during a U.S. tour) treat almost every caller
with charming disdain and disrespect. It's a cute curio,
but might be worth only one listen, if that. A more
judicious compiler could have gotten away with grabbing the
aforementioned good "Earthbeat" outtakes, the re-dubbing of
"Face Place", and the re-dubbing of "In The Beginning,
There Was Rhythm", and fit them nice and snug onto the end
of the disc containing the proper album. Of course, this
re-issue is aimed squarely at the sorts of folks that
probably want to hear Ari Up sprachen zie deutsch, so
better to err on the side of offering too much. And given
that this is the first time in twenty-six years that the
album's been available on CD outside of Japan, letting a
few dull outtakes spoil the album proper is just silly.

-David Raposa, March 13, 2008

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