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Dread More Dan Dead

Ari Up

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Album Review

In the mid-'70s, Ari Up was a founding member of the Slits, a band that not only helped pioneer first-wave reggae-punk fusion but also paved the way for the all-girl punk bands that would come along in subsequent decades. Hole, Sleater-Kinney, and Bikini Kill all owe Up, Palmolive, and the rest of the Slits a huge debt of gratitude. Up hasn't wasted much time worrying about getting her props, though. Instead, she's turned into a genuine dancehall diva, her weird, spine-tingling warble and virtuosic command of Jamaican patois now put to use in the service of rock-hard riddims and familiar countercultural sloganeering. Not that her politics are cookie-cutter, mind you: sure, she declares her romantic independence on assertive tracks like "Me Done" and the nasty kiss-off song "Allergic," but she also has harsh words for women who don't stay home to raise their children ("Baby Mother") and extols the virtues of men who fight against society while being gentle and kind with her and her babies. That mix of social conservatism and political radicalism will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the sometimes baffling internal contradictions of Rastafarianism, but that's not where Up seems to be coming from, album title notwithstanding. The dancehall is her temple, and undermining expectations is her primary article of faith. Long may she continue to mash it up.


Born: 17 January 1962

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Ari Up was born Arianna Forster to a German mother in 1962 (John Lydon was her stepfather). Raised in London, she formed the all-girl punk band the Slits in January 1977, around a lineup of drummer Palmolive (born Paloma Romero), guitarist Kate Korus, and bassist Suzi Gutsy. By the time the group actually appeared in public, however, Gutsy had been replaced by Tessa Pollitt (the pair had previously...
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Dread More Dan Dead, Ari Up
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