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August 16-23, 2006

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Mud Club: The Slits in their heyday


A Label Grows in Aptos

By Bill Forman

AMATEUR NO MORE What are The Slits doing on tiny Aptos-based record label S.A.F. Records? Label maven Mike Driscoll sent Mūz word last week that a reformed version of Britain's dub-punk pioneers will be releasing a three-song CD and 7-inch called Revenge of the Killer Slits on Oct. 17.

In their heyday, the Slits were often likened to a female version of Gang of Four, though their playing tended to be looser, funkier and more anarchic. Although their recorded output was minimal (an album produced by reggae god Dennis Bovell, sessions with industrial music visionary Adrian Sherwood), it had an impact on generations of artists from the Au Pairs to Nine Inch Nails.

So after a quarter-century break, Slits frontwoman Ari Up and bassist Tessa Politt reunited and recruited Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and Adam & the Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni for a one-off session that yielded two new tracks, "Slits Tradition" and "Kill Them With Love," as well as a rerecorded and unreleased 1977 track called "Number One Enemy."

Back at the helm once again is mad mixer Adrian Sherwood (producer of Primal Scream, Ministry and the entire On-U Sound catalog), so you know it's going to be essential.

According to Driscoll, the lineup for these recordings will not be repeated (no surprise there, given the volatile personalities involved), but Ari and Tessa are already putting together a new lineup that will be touring and recording in the months ahead.

The Slits represent the highest-profile artists to date for S.A.F. (which stands, confusingly enough, for Strictly Amateur Films, though the company's film component hasn't quite kept up). Previously, Driscoll's best-known acts have included Orlando, Florida's Sesame Street-obsessed electronic duo Yip Yip and Rhode Island art-school refugees Honeyhander.

Last December in these pages, Driscoll attributed the absence of any local bands on his label to his mad schedule and inability to get out and see more shows. With the Slits on board and a new distribution deal with Redeye--who were awarded Distributor of the Year (Small Division) five out of the last six years by the National Association of Retail Merchandisers (NARM)--kicking in this summer, the little Aptos label that could can expect be drowning in demos for some time to come.

HUSTLING BACKWARD Just in time for the living wage debate, Robert Weisberg's Waging a Living will be airing on PBS's P.O.V. series this month. An official selection in our very own Santa Cruz Film Festival, the 86-minute documentary examines the phenomenon of the one in four Americans today who are, in the filmmaker's parlance, "hustling backwards": working overtime for wages that aren't sufficient to live a decent life. In Studs Terkel tradition, Weisberg makes his point through compelling case studies of a variety of workers on the front lines of the Bush clan's ongoing campaign to achieve total Brazilification of the American economy before their deadline (either cousin Jeb's departure from the White House or total Armageddon, whichever comes first). Waging a Living airs Tuesday evening, Aug. 29, on PBS affiliates.

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