SLINT's return to Spiderland
Because of the neverending generosity of my friend Eric (please, spend lots of money at his store, Chicago Comics, the best comic store in the world), I scored a ticket to last night's historic SLINT concert in Chicago. Finally, almost 12 years after falling in love with this obscure Louisville, KY band that broke up before I'd ever heard of them, I had the chance to see them in concert.
Slint is one of those bands that you may have heard of because everyone is supposed to own (or everyone pretends to have heard) a copy of their classic sophomore album, SPIDERLAND. It's a fantastic record, and one of those recordings that would go on to spawn a hundred similar-sounding bands. It's heavy, like a heavy metal record, but minimalist and slow. Where a metal band would pound away on a chord as fast as possible to show how heavy they are, Slint might hit that chord once, let it ring for 10 seconds or more, and then stop playing completely while the bassist and drummer have a little conversation with each other.
It's not everyone's cup of tea, for sure. My first actual exposure to the band was when I found a copy of their debut, TWEEZ, at a used record store during my freshman year at college. I had been reading about the band and had seen them name checked in many places, but I was so not ready for that record, and it barely registered with me. Just too weird, and Steve Albini's rusty knife production style was not yet my steez. Since I was only 18 and not fully over rock, how could my mind comprehend "post-rock," where there are no choruses, no stadium rocking guitar solos, no grandstanding bullshit?
Then I heard the soundtrack to the movie KIDS, and more specifically their "Good Morning, Captain." It had a narrative, all kinds of creepy guitar work and a big, screamo ending that any ex-grunge kid could embrace. I found SPIDERLAND on vinyl that summer and saw what I had been missing. There were spoken-word lyrics, but they weren't glaringly pretentious and silly to the ears (like, say, any Jim Morrison song). There were all kinds of dark, heavy guitars, but they weren't noodly and juvenile. As for the bass playing and the drumming? I thought I was listening to a Norweigian Death Metal Coltrane album.
Download "Nosferatu Man", put your headphones on and turn it up LOUD. It's the album's "fast" song, with crunchy guitars in strange time signatures and explosive drums. Keep in mind when listening to this that some of these guys were teenagers when TWEEZ came out and were in their early 20s when this was released. Did your friend's college band sound as good as this? I doubt it. But then, your friend's high school band probably wasn't Squirrel Bait, either.
While the band broke up shortly before the release of SPIDERLAND, they released a self-titled EP (recorded between their two albums) in 1994 (which featured an awesome alternate version of "Rhoda", origially on TWEEZ)... and that was that. Slint were gone. Guitarist David Pajo would go onto other "glory," playing in influentail bands like Tortoise and not-so-influential bands like Billy Corgan's ZWAN. Drummer Brit Walford played with The Breeders and The For Carnation (joined by Slint vocalist/guitarist Brian McMahan). I don't even know if bassist Ethan Buckler has done anything since.
But last night at Chicago's Metro, they were back in full form. They even opened with "Good Morning, Captain" and played every track from SPIDERLAND. I was a little disappointed with the crowd. What kind of asshole goes to see Slint reformed after 14 years and yells shit like "Play Dude Looks Like a Lady," "Rockin' like Dokken" (yes, he got the saying wrong), or "Take off your clothes"? My friend Matt even heard a girl behind us remark, "You know, they could liven it up a little and jam or something." Clearly, you don't understand this music. At all.
While I don't have a recording of the show, I do have a couple of live SPIDERLAND tracks from this most recent Slint tour. This version of "Washer" (my favorite song on SPIDERLAND) is from a homecoming show in Louisville in February of this year, while these versions of "Breadcrumb Trail" and "Good Morning, Captain" are from a show in France on March 3rd. These tracks are pretty large ("Captain" is 12.1 MB), so if you aren't on a broadband connection... what are you doing?
Eric, I'm sorry you couldn't make it to the show. I hope this helps a little.
For more on SLINT:
Slint at Southern Records
A helpful Slint page
Info on post-rock