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Review of Spiderland by Slint

Thanks to Micus Decimus of Evol  for this review of the seminal band Slint and their album Spiderland.

Slint | Spiderland

Slint | Spiderland

HISTORY

Slint have been hailed by many as the originators of post rock. Mixing hardcore punk ethics (but not punk aggression) with desolate soundscapes.  The band formed in 1985 and consisted of – David Pajo (guitar), Brian McMahon (guitar, vocals), Britt Walford (Drums) and Todd Brashear (bass).

 

Their first album * Tweez was recorded by Steve Albini in 1987 and carries a lot of the hallmarks of his production style.  The album was released in 1989 and was shamefully barely noticed (check out the songs Carol and Darlene).

 

In 1990 Slint recorded Spiderland, their second and last album with producer/engineer Brian PaulsonSpiderland was released in 1991 and was a lot more successful than Tweez selling 50,000 copies and influencing a new generation of musical geek-ery!  The album was recorded in 4 days, Brian Paulson preferring live recording and few takes.  There is rumor that a member of the band had been in a psychiatric hospital around the time of recording.

 

They disbanded in 1991, and reunited for small tours in 2005 and 2007.  The band debuted a new track King’s Approach in 2007 leading to speculation that they’d reform full time.

 

PACKAGING

The album cover is immediately striking, a black and white photograph of the band keeping themselves afloat in the waters of an abandoned quarry, they look like they’re having fun but they also look quite intense which is a look you see from many tight bands in photos.  The back cover features a black and white photograph of a spider, slightly out of focus and has all 6 tracks listed in hand written green ink.

 

MUSIC

Spiderland is a collection of 6 songs that feel claustrophobic and edgy with general themes of self disgust and loss. The production and spoken word in the record make the music feel very close in proximity and there is a strong sense of their youth, anger and intelligence throughout.

 

BREADCRUMB TRAIL

Breadcrumb Trail sets the album off at a slow, almost drunken pace. The guitar is clean with a little reverb and is quite melodic, yet unsettling at the same time.  Spacious cymbals, guitar harmonics and a quiet harmony on the bass set the scene for a strange dream like story of a man and a female fortune teller who like each other and go on a rollercoaster ride, when she comes off she vomits.  A frail guitar motif gives way to the album’s first moment of heaviness – fuzzy guitar and creamy bass supply the low end while a distorted guitar (probably thin e string around the 15th fret) pierces your ear.  The singer shouts “creeping up into the sky” guitar notes bend, the song is in an insane waltz. As the girl vomits there is a repeated riff in a strange time signature, jagged guitar that gives way to a beautiful, fat, chorus filled note and the song is suddenly weightless, guitar and bass picking away, cymbal crashes.  The narrator finishes the story to the original verse riff.

 

NOSFERATU MAN

Rim shot and snare precedes a 5/4 timing, the rolling de-tuned bass and chompy, nervous sounding guitars smeared like paint.  The drumming is tight and inventive and moves at a faster pace than breadcrumb trail.  Again the 2nd guitar is played very high up and sounds unusual, and the vocals are spoken during the verses.  The chorus explodes with distortion, slight pauses in the infectious, circular riff.  The middle is tough sounding and you can hear the bass very clearly, it sounds metallic, the drums settle into a standard 4/4 while the guitars are being hammered and the song returns to the chorus riff to end.  This is my favorite song of the album, the middle especially has so much chaos and sounds unlike any other band out there. The lyric is about a vampire that drinks the blood of his queen, killing her. He feels helpless and wishes things were difference, but he has no time…

 

DON, AMAN

Don, Aman is so soaked in self disgust. It’s the musical equivalent of the Hunchback of Notre Dame – small, ugly, hates himself, everyone hates him in his eyes, unlovable and pathetic.  I get the feeling the song is about hating what you can become when you drink.  The song is completely narrated and musically is a dance between 2 ( one in each ear) guitars that end up fighting with each other when they pick up the pace it sounds dangerous.  The narration continues and tension builds-builds-builds till it is set free with heavy distortion in the left ear, a mess of anger.  The song then slows to a halt….

 

WASHER

Washer is the most melodic track on the album, a very sad piece of music and probably the only track on the album I think sounds anything like Mogwai at all.  The band are in no rush, just resting on the off key melody waiting for the vocals which are sung without shame.  The most straight forward song lyrically on the album, a lament about a man leaving his love in her bed for the last time.

I won’t be back here

Though we may meet again

The vocal is right at the front of the mix and filled with reverb, things quiet down leaving the vocal bare and build up to a distorted climax which then again winds down and down and down.  Very inventive guitar work.  These guys guitars dance together so well.

 

FOR DINNER

In this track the 2 guitars snake around a low flat bassline and is constantly swelling and building up towards small climaxes.  The band are very patient and I’m always pleased when it doesn’t distort.  This instrumental shows how properly tight and dynamic the band are. The bass line is very simple but it would be sooo easy to not play it right – true tightness.

 

GOOD MORNING, CAPTAIN

Last song on the album, epic, intense.  It centres on a guitar line that sounds like off key bells in space, the bass is stuffed with mid end and almost sounds stuffy apart from the metallic bite of extreme chorus, the drums are loose and inventive and really push the music, the bass line staggers and loops, the guitars build chopping tension then the music falls back to a simply melody.  The chorus is HUGE.  Really loud, really big, long held distorted chords, totally despairing. The words are mostly narrated and concern the captain of a ship being woken up by a crew member who informs him that a storm threw the ship against the edge of a cliff, killing everyone.  He meets a child, his child and feels hatred for himself.  The song explodes into distortion at the end as he shouts

“I miss you”

CONCLUSION

I think Spiderland is a very interesting listen, but you have to give yourself to it.  It’s a testament to youth, anger and intelligence and what that can bring about in people.  The album is very insular and unforgiving… Just like young, angry intelligent people.

Spiderland is available on Spiderland - Slint* complete with a 7th track – Utica Quarry, Nighttime

Cheers for reading.

Micus

Thanks for that Micus.

 

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*Purchases made through the Spiderland - Slint link will result in the indie bands blog earning a commission.

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