April 5, 2005 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Sasha-Frere Jones writes a New Yorker column on Slint, who reunited this year for a tour: "During the nineteen-nineties, [Slint's album] 'Spiderland' sold steadily, a rare feat for an obscure, independent band that no longer existed and had performed live fewer than thirty times. In 1991, [producer] Steve Albini reviewed 'Spiderland' for Melody Maker, a popular British weekly, calling it 'flawless' and awarding it ten fucking stars." Mp3s from the recent tour can be found at MySpace & transmission3000.
posted by dhoyt (48 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ah, mathrock, how we've missed thee. Too bad Slint will be, at closest, five hours away.
Of course, calling them mathrock does kinda show just how weird genre-matching can be... They're angular, often abrasive, complex and smart. They sound like GYBE!, Tortoise, Fugazi and Hawkwind (in varying degrees), but those are post-rock, hardcore/emo and prog, and these guys are different... kinda?
(At least they're probably the best thing to come out of Kentucky for a long time...)
posted by klangklangston at 1:50 PM on April 5, 2005

Sasha-Frere Jones is a name I haven't heard in some time. What has he been up to, these days? Ui was quite a good band back in the day.

Also, hoorj for a Slint reunion! Now it's time to pray to the mathrock gods for Polvo to get back together.
posted by kaseijin at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2005

I recently listened to Spiderland for the first time in, oh, about 10 years. Hate to say it, but it didn't quite hold up as well as I had hoped.
posted by TonyRobots at 1:55 PM on April 5, 2005

What has he been up to, these days?

Check the first link! :)

BTW: Oh yes, Polvo. Such a great, great band.

Aaaaand speaking of the Slint reunion, I'd just like to thank dhoyt for this post. Thank you, dhoyt.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:58 PM on April 5, 2005

I was surprised to read that Spiderland sold, what, less than 50,000 copies? it's so influential that I thought it had sold ten times more than that. everybody I know has that cd and cherishes it. I probably know the wrong people.

but Pajo's still good, Papa M is hit-and-miss but often very interesting. I was sorry to see him involved in the ZWAN mess. anyway, good post.
posted by matteo at 2:05 PM on April 5, 2005

Sasha Frere-Jones is my favorite music critic. He's brought some great stuff into the august pages of the New Yorker-- in the past year or so he's contributed pieces on Madvillain, grime, mashups, ringtones, etc... and his blog combines great photography with perplexing slang. Very "gully," I mean "binoculars."
posted by jcruelty at 2:05 PM on April 5, 2005

(At least they're probably the best thing to come out of Kentucky for a long time...)
Good KY stuff
posted by poodlemouthe at 2:09 PM on April 5, 2005

Of course transmission3000 is now exceedingly busy. Somehow I'm thinking I should have braved the cold that night.
posted by davy at 2:18 PM on April 5, 2005

So does anybody know if Slint played Portland, OR on that final 1991 tour? At a club in SE PDX called La Luna?

I have this strong feeling that I saw them play, but that I had no idea who they were. Still don't for that matter, but listening to the mp3s, it becomes clear I was an idiot then... if any of it even happened. My memory is weaker than my Google-fu, apparently.
posted by Triode at 2:20 PM on April 5, 2005

Good KY stuff

Good KY stuff Who, of course, shot the cover for "Spiderland".
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:21 PM on April 5, 2005

Spiderland doesn't hold up well. It's just boring. One good song on it.
posted by fire&wings at 2:33 PM on April 5, 2005

I saw the reunion show in DC - they were amazing, but I still think Spiderland is a great record, and actually like Tweez better now than I did in 1992 or whenever the Touch and Go reissue came out.
posted by drobot at 2:38 PM on April 5, 2005

everybody I know has that cd and cherishes it.

"This recording is meant to be listened to on vinyl."
posted by cloeburner at 2:41 PM on April 5, 2005

I hadn't listened to Slint in many years, so I broke out the albums before seeing them in Chicago, and I was surprised at how tame and boring they seemed now. I remember the first album sounding groundbreaking and sort of dangerous when it came out, but now it sounded empty and lacking any zing. They live show had it's moments (top notch drumming throughout), but sort of dragged for me. But I will say it might have been the most polite and quiet crowd I have seen in some time - Library Rock would be more appropriate.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:45 PM on April 5, 2005

I saw their reunion show at ATP and then in Boston, they were amazing both times. I couldn't believe how many people were talking through their entire set in England, though, it seemed like almost everyone there was having some sort of drunken conversation. The Boston crowd seemed so grateful to just be seeing Slint; the one heckler got called out for heckling and promptly shut up.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:52 PM on April 5, 2005

Slint was good, not great, and I don't know if I buy into Sasha's thesis that they inspired every shoegazing rock band since. That's kind of silly.

The last good Albini album though was Rapeman's "Two Nuns and a Pack Mule." How can you not love an album that starts with a song mocking vegetarians, with the line "Why don't you stuff it down, you plant-eating pussy?" That rocked.
posted by fungible at 2:57 PM on April 5, 2005

Reunions never ever work because invariably the musicians are fatter and have less hair. I haven't seen any recent photos of Slint (except Pajo) and am not going to seek any out. That aside, when bands get back together they always seem to favour horrible wood effect instruments like Yamaha Pacificas, radio mics, Floyd Rose, weird fretless basses with no headstocks made out of fibreglass. The drummer will have those crap tiny cymbals that nobody can hear and plastic drumsticks. At some point one member will press his finger to his ear because his earpiece is failing. They will all have reached muso nirvana independent of each other and when reunited it just becomes light-emitting-diode-ageddon. LEDs blinking all over the stage on miscellaneous compressors, yet the band sound worse. Only then do you realise that the beaten up instruments are every bit as memorable as the people you have come to see reunite. I'm generalising, but I've been let down before.
posted by fire&wings at 3:27 PM on April 5, 2005

I passed up the chance to go to a Slint reunion concert a couple weeks ago. I played D&D instead. I throw myself on the mercy of the world.
posted by fleacircus at 3:27 PM on April 5, 2005

Speaking as a vegetarian, Two Nuns and a Pack Mule is not only awesome, but has aged better than Spiderland. This is a litm-
posted by basicchannel at 3:30 PM on April 5, 2005

"This recording is meant to be listened to on vinyl."

no wonder very few people bought it, then! vinyl fetish (the non-bdsm kind) is so 1998
posted by matteo at 3:52 PM on April 5, 2005

Why don't you stuff it down, you plant-eating pussy?

huh, i'd always heard that lyric as "why don't you snuff it then, you plant-eating pussy?" as in, well, then why the fuck don't you just rub yourself out if you're going to be such a twat?

as for rapeman being the last good thing albini put out, i'd argue that while shellac is inconsistent, there's some scorching shit on "At Action Park" and on their various 7-inches ("The Guy Who Invented Fire" and "Wingwalker" come to mind).

1000 Hurts is pretty fucking awesome too. like when albini prays to god in the song that the unnamed "him" (corey rusk, founder of touch and go records), be struck down (due to rusk's banging of albini's wife in real life).
posted by Hat Maui at 4:26 PM on April 5, 2005

Personally, I'm hoping for a squirrel bait reunion.
posted by space2k at 4:32 PM on April 5, 2005

My Morning Jacket is weak. But I guess I've gotta go home and listen to Spiderland again, to see if it's still good. Oh, poor me...
posted by klangklangston at 4:53 PM on April 5, 2005

good ky stuff
posted by brevator at 5:48 PM on April 5, 2005

I just dragged spiderland off the rack and listened to it for the first time in a couple of years. And yes, it "holds up" well. And no, its definitely not "mathrock" - a derogatory term for bands who are more interested in playing in 13/8 than in creating beautiful, affecting music. Its sublime, and (though it pains me to say it) Steve Albini is absolutely correct. I don't think that they've inspired shoegazers, but they have inspired every band that does that soft-LOUD-soft thing, and they did it better.

So, to conclude, you're all wrong.
posted by googly at 5:58 PM on April 5, 2005

"Reunions never ever work because invariably the musicians are fatter and have less hair."

-You must've missed that Wire tour back in 2002. They took me 'ead orf!
posted by black8 at 6:04 PM on April 5, 2005

Spiderland sold because of Kids
posted by betaray at 6:06 PM on April 5, 2005


I think the old adage about the Velvet Underground, usually attributed to Brian Eno ("only 1000 people bought their first album, but every one of them formed a band"), probably applies to Slint too. That said, I just dug out Spiderland, and it's not sounding quite as good as I'd remembered.

Oh, and I'm with black8 on the Wire reunion; saw them last April, and they were the very definition of brutal.
posted by Len at 6:23 PM on April 5, 2005

First: thanks dhoyt. I was definitely one of those 1000 people when it came to Spiderland. Second: I'd argue that the Mission of Burma reunion has been, on balance, a success.
posted by leecifer at 6:29 PM on April 5, 2005

Spiderland sold because of Kids

I'd forgotten that. I bet betaray's right that Kids was a big reason the album "sold steadily" through the 90's. Surprising Jones didn't mention it.

fungible: I don't know if I buy into Sasha's thesis that they inspired every shoegazing rock band since.

Yeah, I think it'd be more accurate to peg the influence to Albini. (Side note: I've never heard "shoegazing" applied to this kind of mathrock before. It usually refers to a whole other style inspired by MBV.)

The last good Albini album though was Rapeman's "Two Nuns and a Pack Mule."

No way, dude. Shellac was consistently a *much* more open, imaginative and powerful band than Rapeman, because 1) Trainer and Weston were a much better rhythm section and 2) the songs were more intricate and used silence in much more stunning ways. Shellac live was one of the top ten concerts I've ever seen.

Anyway, thanks for the cool post, dhoyt.
posted by mediareport at 6:54 PM on April 5, 2005

I was just listening to Big Black yesterday, and marveling at how awesome it still is.

Rapeman is awesome, and Shellac equally so. But then, that was Albini stuff.

Spiderland... decent, but not like ^ those guys.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:04 PM on April 5, 2005

I liked Slint a lot when I was a younger, and I still do, though I don't listen to them all that often anymore. I listened to them before "Kids" came out, and thought that "Good Morning, Captain" didn't really belong on the soundtrack.

I started listening to the offshoot band The For Carnation last summer, and they're good, too. Slint are not really "math rock"; they just use dynamics in unexpected ways.

Thanks for the post, dhoyt.
posted by interrobang at 7:05 PM on April 5, 2005

I didn't realize that Hair Police were from Kentucky; I had always thought they were from Michigan since I've seen 'em up here so often. They also did a couple of albums with a girl who goes by Vicki, who I know is local (and good).

Listening to Spiderland now... Seems OK, but (obviously) not as OMG as the first time I heard it. Of course, 1) I was probably blown out of my gourd on god knows what, and 2) by the time I first heard it, it wasn't groundbreaking anymore (hey, I was 12 in '91. Cut me some slack.)

I didn't realize that The For Carnation were an offshoot of Slint (wow, I start all my sentences the same!). I always knew their personel through Tortoise/CUT/"post-rock" guys. Maybe I should have put the McMahon together with the Tortoise Pajo thing...
posted by klangklangston at 7:26 PM on April 5, 2005

vinyl fetish (the non-bdsm kind) is so 1998

yes, but vinyl mockery allows us record geeks to pick up good stuff for cheap. just sayin'.
posted by jonmc at 7:29 PM on April 5, 2005

Reunions never ever work because invariably the musicians are fatter and have less hair.

This Saturday I'm seeing Pere Ubu, and in the past three years Buzzcocks, Gang of Four, Television & The Pixies have toured—all bands I never got too see when I was younger due to age and living in such rural areas. I can say that, yeah, some of them have lost hair and gained pounds, but they were still great and seemed to be happy touring again. If you don't expect them to be sharp as a tack, you won't be too disappointed. Ironically, I like Slint less than any of those bands, but they're still another group of guys that had such a weird dynamic between them that it only seems right the world could get to see them play live again before they're gone for good.
posted by dhoyt at 7:31 PM on April 5, 2005

The reason that Slint 'doesn't hold up' for you folks is because you're sell-outs.

Just kidding (sort of) but a lot of what made Slint great was the time/place and what was going on at the time, and the fact that by the time most people had heard them, they had broken up. But the cliche of reunions being about old fat dudes with fretless basses isn't true with these guys, or any of the reunion shows I've seen lately - Hoover, Unrest, X, Rocket from the Tombs, Rollins Band playing Black Flag songs. Yes, not as cool as seeing them the first time around (although I'd argue Unrest was better in 2005 then they ever were in the 90s) but still great music.
posted by drobot at 7:42 PM on April 5, 2005

For the record, the first Buzzcocks reunion tour was amazing.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 PM on April 5, 2005

I was surprised to read that Spiderland sold, what, less than 50,000 copies? it's so influential that I thought it had sold ten times more than that.

The article notes that the sales figure of 48,000 is just the amount recorded by Soundscan -- which, particularly in the '90s, only recorded sales at major record-store chains and places like Amazon. Most indie stores didn't use Soundscan then, and many still don't. And I'd guess a healthy majority of Spiderland sales were at indie stores, not Musicland.

/boring industry blah
posted by lisa g at 9:08 PM on April 5, 2005

Lisa: But Soundscan allows you to make "estimated" sales slips up, and a label like Touch and Go is pretty savvy about that. You can get on Soundscan even if you're talking about an album you sold out of the trunk of your car ten years ago.
(They just get more and more skeptical the more sales you want to claim.)

And Frank Black was always fat and bald. How could the Pixies reunion change that?
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 PM on April 5, 2005

Big Black had Kerosene, Rapeman had Trouser Minnow, Shellac had The Idea of North.

You can't choose among them.
posted by xmutex at 9:24 PM on April 5, 2005

i just grabbed a torrent of spiderland. what a yawner. such boring cruft.
posted by quonsar at 9:36 PM on April 5, 2005

I actually pulled out Spiderland the other night for the first time in many years (not having anything to do with this thread or anything else), and I still enjoyed it nearly as much as I did back then (the main difference being that I'm not as tortured and emo as I was back then).
posted by matildaben at 9:44 PM on April 5, 2005

(long-time lurker, first-time poster - finally prompted to stump up the $5)

I was at the first night (post-ATP) of the reunion tour at the Forum in London, and it actually managed to exceed my somewhat lofty expectations - a perfect setlist (then again, not too hard when your entire output is <20 tracks ;) ), an incredible atmosphere, and the Tweez tracks sounded about a thousand times better in the flesh. Truly electric.

I dragged my flatmate along who had only heard a couple of tracks previously, and he was similarly awestruck (and rushed out to buy Spiderland immediately afterwards - I was most disappointed that his CD didn't have the "This recording is meant to be listened to on vinyl" text - was this only on early copies or something? I've only got the LP).

And regarding the steady sales throughout the 90's - I suspect that, on this side of the pond at least, the citing of 'Spiderland' as a key influence by Mogwai et al had much more of an effect than the 'Kids' soundtrack (speaking of which, was GMC just on the soundtrack? I was looking out for it the last time I watched 'Kids', but didn't spot it in the actual film).
posted by anagrama at 3:46 AM on April 6, 2005

On Spiderland, Slint's singer sounds like Big Bird. There, I said it.
posted by tomharpel at 6:11 AM on April 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

Too bad Mogwai sucks...
posted by klangklangston at 6:29 AM on April 6, 2005

Shellac's great, don't get me wrong. They're inconsistent, though. Their singles and Action Park were really good. Then they delved into ultra-minimalist bullshit that seemed experimental at best, and lazy at worst. Terraform was almost unlistenable. 1000 Hurts has some good songs but then turns to obvious mathrock-in-joke filler like "The Numbers Song."

"Two Nuns" though, was solid stem-to-stern. Perhaps the lesson is that age kills all our rock gods, eventually.
posted by fungible at 7:56 AM on April 6, 2005

Speaking of Mogwai, the writers of Chunklet are answering questions on Mogwai's QA page for the whole month of April.
posted by dhoyt at 10:35 AM on April 6, 2005

I liked Slint a lot back in the early 90s, and have listened to them recently. I'm in the "still good" camp, but I just don't need to feel that claustrophobic and angry for no disicernible reason (could be because I'm not using as many substances as I used to either--or just getting old). I would have liked to see a show, but missed it. I did hear that the show I was going to go to was really bad--that's just what I heard. I think that there were a lot of bands in that time period who had that sound, but Slint had the syncopation. A friend called "Good Morning, Captain" the most angst-ridden moment in indie rock back in '92 and I think the statement still holds really well. I still want to yell with him at that moment just because after all that build up you have to do something.

I didn't know the song was on the Kids soundtrack. I guess I should have watched that movie at some point. OK, not really.

dhoyt, thanks for the post. Pere Ubu are amazing (well, if you like them at all before going). I've seen them 4 times (in the 90s during their first "reunion" I guess) and I've always loved it.

And cloeburner, your comment actually made me laugh out loud. (wow, I must be a really huge dork)
posted by sleepy pete at 10:41 AM on April 6, 2005

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