Records Revisited – Slint – Spiderland (1991)

In one of the most important years in recent music history, Slint released "Spiderland", the blueprint for every conceivable guitar sound to come: Math Rock, Post-Hardcore and Post-Rock. Slint were already history when the album was released in March 1991. Disbanded. But even the several reunions for live performances of the band could not harm the myth around this album. About one of the best strange albums that formed the sound of the 21st century.

In the end, everyone wants to have known – but in the case of Slint, it can actually be stated that only one person knew. Already in December 1990 Slint disbanded. A few weeks before the release of their second album »Spiderland«. Tour and promotion for the record did not take place because of that, radio stations did not play the band’s songs. In the first year after its release, »Spiderland« did not even sell more than 5,000 copies. So, who should have even noticed this band from Louisville in the US state of Kentucky?

According to the circumstances, there were hardly any reviews in major music magazines of the time. Only a review with just 600 words in the British Melody Maker gave the record ten stars. Author of the text: Steve Albini, who had also produced Slint’s first album »Tweez«. »In 10 years it will be a landmark and you’ll have to scramble to buy a copy then.« At least with the first part Albini should be right.

Slint completely said goodbye to the cold post-punk of their first album for »Spiderland«. The six songs on this album could also have come from a completely different band. Because here was suddenly a previously completely unknown dynamic – for any form of guitar music. The lyrics were more spoken Brian McMahan, if he did not rather shout them. Already in the opener »Breadcrumb Trail« the tempo changes several times, sometimes McMahan tells a fantastic love story, sometimes he screeches the feelings of the character in the most beautiful expression in the imaginary night sky of a fair.

The special thing about Slint, however, is that their lyrics are more short stories and less single impressions. Nevertheless, the six songs on »Spiderland« are not narratives set to music, but lyrics and music enter into a previously unknown symphony, words like shattered guitar notes fly over the drums until a melody takes over, only to tear everything down again in the next moment.

Lyrics and music enter into a previously unknown symphony, words like shattered guitar notes fly over the drums until a melody takes over, only to tear everything down again in the next moment.

Exactly these changes, the transformations within a song, the sparse production, the rejection of any mechanisms and myths known until then rock bands made »Spiderland« a milestone. With »Loveless« by My Bloody Valentine and »Nevermind« by Nirvana, two other important albums of rock history appeared in the same year, but only »Spiderland« still sounds so detached from that time that its sound does not trigger nostalgic feelings to this day.

»The album’s full of moments, for me«, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai told the online magazine Clash seven years ago about »Spiderland«. Slint’s influence on the Scottish band can still be clearly heard, especially on their first albums. »It is a bit of a journey, isn’t it? But I suppose it all builds to »Good Morning, Captain«, which is just devastating. It’s an end that you’re not really expecting after what’s come before.«

The sparse production makes the drums seem like complete foreign bodies in this song, the guitar bites down more and more with every note. »Good Morning, Captain« holds together the forces on seven and a half minutes, which then let this sound break apart in the end. And in every note already sound all the post-rock albums that should arise in the years after in different parts of the world.

Slint were part of the punk rock scene in Louisville, they played maybe thirty concerts before the band then disbanded after the recording of »Spiderland«. If you wanted information about these mysterious musicians, you had to search for a long time. But something else made »Spiderland« almost unique: every listener is said to have founded his own band after enjoying the record. A legend that otherwise only surrounds the first album of Velvet Underground and Nico from 1967.

The information age, however, has of course also long since taken on »Spiderland«. In addition to a reissue with numerous bonus tracks, the documentary »Breadcrumb Trail« was already released in 2014, Slint then also toured a few times via reunion. However, Slint will probably not record any new material. Which is perhaps also quite good. Because the six songs of »Spiderland« stand for themselves. And for everything that should come after that. Even if Slint didn’t have to make music for it anymore.

»I’m the only one left
The storm took them all«

(Slint – Good Morning, Captain)

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