There was no one quite like The Slits, and there never will be again. It’s eleven years since lead singer and force of nature Ari Up passed away from cancer at just 48
William E Badgley’s documentary charts the first all-female punk band and their formation in 1976, featuring interviews with Kate Korris, the original guitarist who came up with the name, original drummer Palmolive and of course Tess Pollitt and Viv Albertine, the main Slits alongside the late Arianna Forster, aka Ari Up.
There are also insightful contributions from journalist Vivien Goldman, filmmaker and one-time manager Don Letts and Sex Pistol Paul Cook, all of whom remember the band as a kind of unstoppable girl gang.
Pollitt’s scrapbook of the band provides much of the context- the villification from the UK tabloids and rave reviews and interviews in the music press alike.
It’s a brilliant, brutal time capsule of Thatcher’s Britain, with all of the bleakness, bin strikes and mass unemployment. There’s also the ugly spectre of racism here. The Slits fused punk with reggae and world music, collaborating with Dennis Bovell, Neneh Cherry and, latterly, Hollie Cook, and the racist NF skinheads who attended punk gigs weren’t impressed.
The Slits weren’t just trailblazers, but for many disenfranchised young people, they felt absolutely necessary. They spoke to how limiting it was to be a young girl in the time when you were expected to shut up, marry young and squeeze out lots of children.
These ‘atypical girls’ deserve such a thoughtful, vivid and touching film. They changed so many lives.