When Slint emerged in 1989 with their debut album Tweez, the post-hardcore band from Louisville, Kentucky were just a quartet that featured singer/guitarist Brian McMahan, guitarist David Pajo, drummer Britt Walford, and bassist Ethan Buckler. Buckler left the band after the recording of Tweez as he was replaced by Todd Brashear as their debut was released to obscurity. Though they would get the attention of the indie label Touch & Go Records, the band didn’t immediately go into the studio until August of 1990 where they teamed up with producer Brian Paulson to record their sophomore album.
Yet, the making of the album would prove to be difficult for the band and Paulson over the complexity of the music. Though the album was recorded in four days, the mixing and pre-planning was more difficult as it put a strain into the band as tensions started to grow. With Paulson trying to go over the finalization of the album with the band, they would ultimately make what many considers to be one of the key albums of the post-rock genre entitled Spiderland.
Produced by Brian Paulson and songs written and performed by Slint, Spiderland is a dark yet mesmerizing record that moves the band away from the post-hardcore sound of their previous album for a more melodic but aggressive sound that shifts into various mood through time signatures and varying guitar textures. While the music recalls elements of punk and ambient in fragmented melodies, it’s a more straightforward record than Tweez on that frame. Lyrically, the album delves into themes of alienation as it’s told in narrative form to help set the mood for the music. The overall result would be one of the key landmark albums of the 1990s.
The album opener Breadcrumb Trail starts off as a soothing, plaintive track with Britt Walford’s calm yet steady drum fills, melodic guitar strums and arpeggios, and a low bass as Brian McMahan talks about a carnival experience going wrong. Squealing guitars start to emerge as McMahan goes into a raspy wailing vocal to maintain the dark, intensity of the experience getting much worse as the song’s mood changes throughout the song to emphasize what is ahead for the rest of the album. Nosferatu Man is a slightly, upbeat track with bopping rhythms led by hollow drum fills and noisy guitar wails as McMahan sings quietly about a vampire. The song starts off as a steady track until it goes into a menacing sound with thrashing guitars and pummeling beats as McMahan snarls through as the song’s mood changes back and forth.
Don, Aman features quiet yet dissonant guitar strums with quiet vocals from drummer Britt Walford as he sings harrowing lyrics of loneliness as a man walks into a bar dealing with despair. With the song starting off into a quiet, meditative piece, it later becomes a much more intense as the momentum of the track builds up through McMahan’s melodic guitar strums and Pajo’s more driving, droning guitar sludge. The near-nine minute Washer is led by a swooning yet arpeggio-laden guitar melody and a soft, steady drum fill with a soft bass in the background as McMahan sings in an evocative vocal. With its longing yet haunting lyrics, it’s a song that starts off as very stark and sparse until it builds up momentum into a much more lush yet ethereal cut with layered guitar melodies.
The instrumental For Dinner… is an ambient-inspired track with a slow yet hollow drum fill and weaving guitar strums as goes into different time signatures while maintaining its sparse yet entrancing tone. The album closer is Good Morning, Captain is a more rhythmic track with steady yet walloping beats, a wobbly bass line, dissonant guitars, and McMahan’s soft spoken vocals as he sings lyrics about a captain lost in his surroundings. Featuring driving guitar power chords and spurting riffs, the song’s momentum builds through alternating moods and an intense performance as it serves as a fitting close to the album.
Released in March 27, 1991, the album didn’t receive much attention though Steve Albini, who produced their debut album Tweez, thought it was an amazing album. Various reviews for the record were initially mixed though its critical acclaim would grow in the coming years as one of the most influential albums of the 1990s. While the album would initially sell to around 50,000 copies, Slint called it quits shortly after its release though the band would reunite in 2005 and 2007 for some shows including performing Spiderland in its entirety for some festival-based shows.
Spiderland is hypnotic yet esoteric album from Slint that is really one of the key cornerstone albums of the post-rock genre. Anyone interested in Slint or the post-rock genre will no doubt find this album as the best place to start. Particularly when compared to the more lush yet reflective Talk Talk album Laughing Stock as this record is its more uglier but still engaging cousin. It’s not an immediate album to get into but repeated listens do make the record much more worthwhile. In the end, Spiderland is an intricate but exotic album from Slint.
Slint Reviews: Tweez
© thevoid99 2011