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3rd December 2013

From the Vault: Slint – Spiderland

Jack Winstanley looks back at why Slint were such an important band

Released March, 1991

Touch & Go

With Slint playing one of two ATP headlining shows in Manchester’s Albert Hall last Thursday (28th November) then going on to play ATP’s End of an Era Holiday camp at the weekend, this seems a better time than any to look back at why Slint were such an important band.

Formed from the ashes of seminal punk outfit Squirrel Bait in the late 80s, Slint put out their first release in 1989. Recorded by Steve Albini, Tweez was an interesting albeit imperfect album, straddling the line between Squirrel Bait and what was to come, leading to what was ultimately a bit of mess, despite the meticulous Albini’s presence.

Nonetheless Slint persevered, and in 1991 they released their masterwork. Comprising of six tracks and running for a total of just 39 minutes, Spiderland wastes no time achieving its vision. Each track contains a fully realised narrative (barring the instrumental ‘For Dinner’, which sounds like a precursor to Radiohead’s ‘Treefingers’). Vocalist Brian McMahan mumbles his way through each story, accentuating the words with strained singing on the beautiful ‘Washer’, or even turns back to his hardcore days such as the shouts on ‘Nosferatu Man’ or the famous “I miss you” refrain that ends the album.

Instrumentally, each track features intricate interplay between each band member, with the guitars weaving in and out of each other as they explore their sonic palette. To a synesthete, this music conjures only black and white, the photograph taken by Will Oldham that adorns the cover acting as a gateway to Slint’s beautiful, creepy world.

Many vouch for Spiderland’s influence on the creation of post-rock yet, much like Talk Talk’s later work, there are very few instances of others really trying to work with the Slint sound besides perhaps Chavez, Mogwai and fellow Kentuckians Rodan. Slint contains within itself an entire reality, one designed not to evoke necessarily positive feelings, but for one to immerse yourself in and think.

Spiderland is a vital document of underground music at its most challenging yet listenable, and will forever remain a timeless and singular work.

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