Slint - Spiderland (Cover Artwork)


Spiderland (1991)

Touch and Go

Formed from select ashes of the late Squirrel Bait, Slint were yet another band gone before their time. Output? Two albums and one E.P. of old material released three years after their break-up. Their life-span? About two years. Their influence? Ubiquitous. Everywhere. Unavoidable. Massive. (To name just a few adjectives.)

There was always a certain air of mystery about Slint, as well. With some of the most cryptic liner notes I've ever read, and no members listed in the sleeve, one can easily be curious. Besides mystique, though, they were also a very non-traditional, sometimes quirky band. Vinyl was even the intended medium for the listening for their releases, and it is even explicitly scrawled on the back cover of this one.

Anyway, after the disintegration of Squirrel Bait, former guitarist of said band, Brian McMahan met up with Slint "co-conspirators," guitarist David Pajo and drummer Britt Walford. Joined by Ethan Buckler (who left shortly after) on bass, this five-piece recorded their first full-length, Tweez. While not up to the majesty of their next masterpiece, it did entail some crackling Steve Albini production and songs all named after either pets or family members.

Now, to the music.
It's easy to get lost inside the walls of Spiderland. Intimidating, sprawling, and grand, the listener is propelled into another dimension. And that's not hyperbole, folks. You see, when I first heard Slint, it was the closing seven-minute epic "Good Morning, Captain." I was floored after hearing those spoken, monotone vocals, the unsettling storytelling lyrics, and the eerie, all-encompassing mood and atmosphere. And it didn't stop there.

Chiming, arpeggiated notes begin the opening track, "Breadcrumb Trail," in which singer Brian McMahan narrates the story of meeting a fortune-teller at a carnival, to captivating effect. With its staggering tempo, nasal, spoken vocals, and one of the oddest, most high-pitched guitar noises I've heard, it lurches about, alternating between pretty, picked harmonics and a grinding orchestration in the chorus. The next song, "Nosferatu Man," has one of the craziest time signatures I've ever heard, with booming drums that slap against everything else, and yet another high-in-pitch guitar nuance that seems to contrast with the structure. And MAN, does that chorus explode. A few drumstick clicks and BOOM!, the guitars roar, the vocals are strained and yelping, and the drums are let loose, seeking to maim and destroy the eardrums. Third track "Don, Aman" starts off quiet and melancholy, calm and soothing, with its strummings and soft vocals. Then something snaps, and the mood goes from lush to seemingly paranoid, with fuzzy guitars played in complex time and hurried, brisk vocals namechecking everyday objects and ideas.

But who am I kidding. To tell anymore would not do any justice to this flawless swan song of a recording, ahead of its time and genre. I even read somewhere that each member of Slint had their own "breakdown," from the stress and strain of this work. Not hard to believe, with music of this prowess. I'm STILL getting my ass kicked by that distorted, frenzied outro to "Good Morning, Captain," which sounds like it was recorded today, and not ten years ago!

Precise, smart, fierce, merciless. And to think that there's only six songs, yet the listener is still left fulfilled. Do your ears a favor. Hunt this one down.