Review of Scott Tennent’s Slint’s Spiderland
Spiderland is one of those records that blew the lid off what I thought was possible within rock music.
It also hit me at a time and place where I was ripe for its influence, a post-adolescent pupae still forming an identity and an aesthetic.
It’s strange, the resonance this album has been able to create for so many people.
It was recorded in two weekends, the product of a year’s concentrated effort and five rehearsals a week by a group of music nerds barely out of childhood, who broke up before its release in March 1991.
The cover features four young men smiling at the camera in a black and white photograph taken in a lake in a quarry on the outskirts of Louisville, Kentucky, a rural city not unlike the one I grew up in — except a lot more plugged in to the 1980s independent music scene than was possible in Toowoomba, Queensland.
I was introduced to it in late 1991 by a girl I’d started seeing.
She had a record player in her bedroom, and we lay there listening to side 2 over and over:
‘Washer’, with its tentative vocals about a doomed relationship; ‘For Dinner …’, a brooding instrumental providing a space for calm; and the menacing storm of ‘Good Morning Captain’, with its unreliable narrator and screaming climax.
It wasn’t until later, when I had managed to buy a copy of the CD (the back cover of which admonished that the product was best listened to on vinyl), that I heard the first side, sitting in my parents’ living room in Toowoomba as a summer storm rolled in over the mountains: ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ about a fortune teller and a roller coaster; ‘Nosferatu Man’, an Oedipal vampire story; and ‘Don, aman’, with its socially awkward narrator who steps outside during a party.
Six songs, just 39 minutes long. But together they form a self-contained world, narratively consistent, meticulously created.
Walford and McMahan’s eerie spoken-word recitations drift in and out of the intricate harmonics Pajo bends from his guitar in that snarling, cold, solid-state tone.