Music

Ariane (a.k.a. Ari of the Slits): Ariane

Charlotte Robinson
Ariane (a.k.a. Ari of the Slits)

Ariane

Label: a.k.a. Ari of the Slits
Amazon
iTunes

There are basically two camps of aging punk rockers. First are those who continue to make music that rarely rivals their previous successes (Joe Strummer, Siouxsie, Wire, etc.). Second are those who have drifted off mainstream radar to become romanticized cult figures (Adverts, X-Ray Spex, Subway Sect, etc.). The Slits and their lead singer, Ari Up, have been part of the latter category since their split in 1981. The all-girl group began to take shape in the mid-'70s when 14-year-old Ari Up (Ariane Forster) met drummer Palmolive (Paloma Romero) at a Patti Smith concert and agreed on the spot to sing with her band. With guitarist Viv Albertine and bassist Tessa Pollitt, the Slits made one of the biggest, wildest rackets in British punk. They toured with the Clash, recorded sessions for John Peel's influential radio show, transformed from a raw punk band to a dub reggae conglomerate, played with Nina Hagen and Neneh Cherry, and left behind just two studio albums (after Palmolive's departure) before their demise. Ari Up briefly performed with producer Adrian Sherwood's New Age Steppers in the early '80s, and Palmolive played on the first Raincoats album in 1979, but after that, not much was heard from the former members of the pioneering punk band.

What a treat it was, then, when Ari Up briefly turned up in a 1990s "history of rock" documentary, still decked out with crazy hair and living in Jamaica. In her years out of the spotlight, she had mothered three sons, become a clothing designer, and continued to perform in Jamaica under the name Medusa. Now going by Ariane or Ari Up in the States, she divides her time between Jamaica and Brooklyn, and is looking to reclaim the Slits' impressive legacy. To that end, she has performed a number of live shows in New York (with a recent stop in Chicago) and recorded a song for the 9/11 benefit album Love Songs for New York with her eight-year-old son, Wilton. Her self-titled six-song EP for Converge Records is her first serious attempt at a recording comeback.

So, should we now add Ari Up to that first category of old punks, the ones who keep recording but never quite reclaim that old magic? No way. Ariane is one of the few former punks who has somehow managed to capture the spirit of her classic period while taking her music in new, modern directions. Synthesizers and drum machines are now used to create the full sound for which the Slits required an extended live band, but for the most part this makes the music sound up-to-date rather than mechanical. The fact that Ari has chosen to record reggae-influenced material adds to the freshness of the sound, since dancehall and dub remain underrepresented musical styles in America and Britain.

The opener on Ariane is unfortunately its weakest track, though. "Bashment" relies too heavily on synthesizers and stilted backing vocals, but Ariane's prowess as a rapper (who knew?) nearly makes up for that. The rest of the EP fares considerably better. "True Warrior" incorporates the best elements of the Slits circa Return of the Giant Slits: a trance-inducing reggae beat, subtle percussion, and Ari on lead and backing vocals. Her bizarre and intriguing voice, always the defining element of the Slits' work, is a mixture of straightforward singing, high-pitched warbling reminiscent of a bird call, and rapping. Ari's lyrics are also an impressive mixture of strong and tender sentiments. While the Slits made fun of romantic relationships in songs like "Love und Romance", their singer now has no qualms singing about relationships in a serious way. "I need a man with a strong nature" she asserts on "True Warrior", "A bad boy to society / A lover to his family". Another song that shows uncharacteristic sweetness is "Can't Have", a simple, plaintive ballad about a love triangle. "There's a man that I love / But I know I can't have / 'Cause he's with her / And I don't share", Ari sings. Not everything on Ariane is so restrained, however; "Exterminator" and "Baby Mother" are hard-edged Jamaican-style dance numbers that showcase Ari's dance sensibility and rhyming skills.

Despite its short running time, Ariane shows an impressive musical range. While putting out six songs on a small label may seem like a low-key way to make a comeback, the music on Ariane is far from low-key. It's downright fierce.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image