Smile Politely

One Minute Reviews:  Dec. 9

theslitsThe Slits
Trapped Animal
Narnack Records

The Slits’ Peel Sessions EP stands to me as a classic of the punk era, while their first full length Cut, despite its immensely provocative cover (band member Palmolive reportedly left the band because of it), felt tired, as though an insincere Caribbean influence had been grafted over shortcomings in the music. The Slits, then, were a band with tremendous potential who barely managed to make anything like a body of work. All of which left me confused about how curious to be about their new album, coming 30 years after their first, 25 years after their third and last. Well, my advice to you is not to think that hard about it: Ari Up and Tessa Pollitt are back with a band whose ingredients–punk, reggae, hip hop, and even middle eastern music (“Reggae Gypsy”)–have had enough time to blend, ferment, and become spicy, pungent, and tasty. Contemporary recording technology allows for a less shaky instrumental bed on which their lyrical and musical ideas may play. What seemed half-baked against the explosive backdrop of 1979 is fresh and piping hot now. I like.


flightoftheconchordsFlight of the Conchords
I Told You I Was Freaky

Disliking Flight of the Conchords is plausible but pointless: their music, like their TV show, makes no claims of quality. Even the humor is as often careless, mindless and haphazard as it is clever. I heard that the first album was created before the TV series that attempted to work the songs into one-calorie pretzel plots was written, but the second album’s music was written concurrently with those plots. The plots only suffered from the increased attention, but the music is as strong–is that the right word?–as their debut. (Notice I didn’t call the albums their “sophomore effort” and “eponymous” because that would already be way too serious). The second album has an increased emphasis on penis jokes and techno rhythms, and while the increased production quality eliminates the $2 charm of hip hop picked out on acoustic guitar present on the first record, the added expense does enhance the humor, as these professional-sounding backgrounds are more thoroughly undermined by the cocktail napkin quality of the lyrics. Maybe it’s even funnier when purchased on thick vinyl with abundant artwork, poster and booklet (including pages of lyrics and the handful of chords necessary to reproduce these compositions in your very own garage!). Fun fun fun. For the first five or so listens anyway.

laminatedcatLaminated Cat
Umbrella Weather
Garden Gate Records

Facts: One college-trained experimental composer. One multi-instrumentalist. Identical twins on bass and drums. None over the age of 21 when this was recorded. One degree of separation from Apples in Stereo and Olivia Tremor Control. Conjecture: Great music. Ornate, trashy, gentle confident. Like the ghosts of talented children with amplifiers echoing through an abandoned church. Question: What is “psychedelic music” in 2009? And where can I get a naughty kitten laminated?


William Gillespie and Cristy Scoggins are the hosts of Rock Geek F.M., airing Monday nights from 8-10 on WEFT 90.1 FM. They publish rock scholarship online at Rock Geek Chic, direct the local independent publishing house Spineless Books, and are members of the Champaign-Urbana Design Org.

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