Slint - Spiderland [Boxset] - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Slint - Spiderland [Boxset]

by Steve Reynolds Rating:10 Release Date:1991-04-15

In the grand scheme of underground music and the influence it's had, you’d be hard pushed to find anything as vital and important as Spiderland by Slint. Having released Tweez in 1989 they decided to focus on the follow-up Spiderland, apparently to such a high level of intensity and concentration that it was rumoured one of the band was hospitalised during the recording of it. With the focus on instrumental delivery, they inadvertently created the genre known as post-rock. Only after they went into the studio did they decide to pen any vocals for their sophomore release.

Twenty-three years since this landmark release, their label Touch and Go has decided to re-launch it in this super duper deluxe box set version. Completely remastered from the analogue tapes, it also comes with 14 previously unreleased outtakes and demos and includes a 104-page book with never-before-seen photos, lyrics, and a foreword by Will Oldham. It's available in a limited edition of 3,138 copies. 

The box set also contains Breadcrumb Trail, a 90-minute documentary on DVD about the making of Spiderland directed by Lance Bangs.

So what’s to make of it all?  Well to the uninitiated it’s a very human-sounding record, lacking in bombast and flab. It’s very raw and uncomplicated and the heightened simple yet energising guitar chords on opener ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ are only a distant duel away from Brian McMahan's moribund, dissonant vocal as he quickly switches from the hallow shriek to a shallow spoken word, but it all comes with a twist. The twist comes in the arrangement defined by clear and dark spaces, combining the guitars of David Pajo and McMahan.

The simple and sparse drums fit in perfectly, creating a feel of dystopia but with an edge of simplicity, shown again on ‘Nosferatu Man’. McMahan mumbles his way past the storm brewing guitar and bass with some very sinister and loose lyrics: “I live in a castle/ I am a prince/ On days I try to please my queen/ Soon as I start to smile/ My smiling queen/ Who sits across the table/ By the food she made“. The defining moment is the way he bellows the chorus over a tirade of angry riffs: “Like a bat/ I flushed the girl/ And I flew out my back door”.

The bleak ‘Don Aman’ is a chilling tale of loneliness and alienation, accompanied only by a guitar which stoops and rises from the meagre to shards of beautiful distortion. The funereal ‘Washer’ tingles with a crystalline guitar whilst McMahan’s eerie delivery is almost suicidal, the sound of a man reaching his nadir. In between his vocal are oodles of space and the economic motoric drum pattern is slow-core personified.

‘For Dinner’ is the only instrumental track on the album and is probably most akin to the post-rock sound encapsulated in the modern era by those Glasgow geniuses Mogwai. But what it does do is set you up for the final track ‘Good Morning Captain’, which is simply sublime and a thrill a second, which is impressive when it’s over seven minutes long. A clever ringing chord interjected by a soaring piece of noisy guitar fuzz which jolts back and forward. Apparently during the actual recording of this McMahan was physically sick when he had to bark ‘I miss you’ over the sonic scapes of Pajo’s guitar. Words fail me as to how good this song is. Its arrangement and guitar interplay is ahead of its time, which makes ‘Spiderland’ even more important than ever.

Besides the album there are a whole heap of outtakes, basement recordings and extra tracks ('Glenn', 'Todd’s Song', 'Brian’s Song') all of which have their own merits and guarantee the wallet emptying of the Slint uber fan. The track ‘Glenn’ ended up on the last record that Slint ever did (untitled ep) and if you don’t have it in its original format then this more than makes up for it. 

Touch and Go have got this release spot on, from the fantastic photo booklet including pictures of the band in their infancy right through to the photo sessions that culminated in the cover for Spiderland, to a reprint of one of their early tour tees. It’s a great retrospective view of a band that ended up busting up before they broke it big time. 

Their legacy will endure in alternative circles, thanks to Spiderland's timeless idiosyncrasy. I don't think the band themselves even realised the impact this album would have, and the interest it would maintain some 20 years later.

Comments (2)

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Great review and a brilliant album!

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cheers Andy and you are right it's faultless

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