While most of the original U.K. girl-punk bands only reappear on reissues, it’s no surprise the Slits mounted a reunion tour. Singer Ari Up has been playing in Gotham tirelessly, still approaching reggae like a wacky kid—the same way the Beastie Boys approached rap. Re-teaming with original bassist Tessa Pollitt, she’s solidified the use of the group’s brand name even though guitarist Viv Albertine and drummer Palmolive declined. But a half-Slits is still legit: Up is the group’s brains and brawn, while Pollitt supplies the soul, her nimble dub lines driving the songs at this sold-out CMJ showcase. While Up—dressed in a Day-Glo shirt, short shorts, and multicolored socks—tirelessly bounced around like the 14-year-old kid she was when she started out, Pollitt innocuously stood by her side, booming away. Though the rest of the almost all-femme new members (including Pistols drummer Paul Cook’s daughter) hadn’t been born when the original Slits started in ’76, they could still re-create the sexy, mysterious skanking vibe from long ago.
As on other recent reunion gigs, the group was haunted by sound gremlins disrupting the mix. But Up overcame such problems with her good cheer, play-fighting with her bandmates, toasting dancehall-style, twirling her mile-long dreads like a lasso, applying her wobbly howl, and eliciting bird sounds from the crowd. And while oldies like the creepy “Man Next Door,” the defiant “Shoplifting,” the ready-made anthem “Typical Girls,” and the joyously snotty “Vindictive” got the most cheers, newer material like punky anthems-in-the-making “Hated by Many” (“Loved by a few”) and “Grown-Ups” (turns out they’re s o corrupt) slotted into the set well. “This is the sound of the Slits: reggae mixed with punk,” Up announced. And while they still lean more toward Kingston calm than U.K. anarchy, Up and Pollitt can still channel their inner brats.