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Slint - Spiderland CD (album) cover




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4.11 | 116 ratings

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5 stars It can take me hours, if not days, to even prepare to listen to Spiderland. The emotional burden it places on the listener is almost unfair, and devastating. Every song is a succinct masterpiece unto itself; the bleak, shadowy space each creates is a voluminous cavern into which the air is sucked and spit back out as vitriol. Spiderland is ugly, beautiful, scary, redemptive and exhausting. It inspired countless bands and an entire genre of music. It exists on an island. Nothing ever before, and nothing ever since, sounds exactly like Spiderland.

Considering the rock music landscape of 1991, Slint never should have lasted as long as they did. Grunge was being crowned king, and Nirvana was heir apparent; Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden all released seminal albums. Slint never had a chance. The Kentucky quartet was a blip on the radar, too far removed from the angst and major-label publicity of the Seattle scene. Growing up as a teenager in southern Indiana, I know exactly what it felt like to be a Midwestern kid in the early nineties. Bands like Nirvana were like a breath of fresh air, a perfect distillation of disillusion and antiestablishmentarianism wrapped up in a convenient, portion-controlled package. If you had played Spiderland for me in 1991, not only would it have not blown my mind, but would have been immediately discarded and disregarded. Music was not ready for Slint in 1991, and they broke up. A couple of years later, guitarist David Pajo joined a band called Tortoise. Their 1996 release Millions Now Living Will Never Die became a critical addition to the Post-Rock canon, a newly-dubbed genre that would not have been possible without Slint's contribution.

"Breadcrumb Trail" alternates between bars of three and four with jangly, solid-state aplomb. Artificial harmonics rattle and hum, Pajo hits the distortion pedal, and singer Brian McMahan's whispery voice cries out for help. Britt Walford leads "Nosferatu Man" with rimshots and stick clicks, applying cymbals only when absolutely necessary. The drummer's greatest contribution comes from his composition "Don, Aman" and its hauntingly accurate depiction of social anxiety disorder. Again the guitars crunch and moan but the drums never kick in. Any closure or payoff goes unanswered. You flip the record over, almost terrified to hear what comes next, and "Washer" soothes you momentarily. Then McMahan sings "Good night, my love...remember me as you fall to sleep" and you realize the nightmare has only just begun. "For Dinner" builds tension like a 2-liter bottle of soda being shook up. "Good Morning, Captain" takes the now rigidly tight bottle and slowly unscrews the cap, as uncomfortable anxiety gives way to catharsis. You flip the record back over, and listen to the whole thing again. Spiderland is an essential masterpiece of rock music.

coasterzombie | 5/5 |


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