Ari Up

Dread More Dan Dead

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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.

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