Review Summary: Dark and beautiful, Slint's second album is an influential classic.
Slint's Spiderland was released in 1991, along with other alternative rock monsters such as Pearl Jam's Ten, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, and, what may be the seminal release of the Nineties, Nirvana's Nevermind. Spiderland is easily as influential as that grunge masterpiece, influencing not just post-rock and math-rock bands to follow, but later alternative rock innovators such as Radiohead and Wilco. Yet, mainly because the main genres this album has influenced maintain a certain obscurity, Spiderland gets none of the attention it deserves. With its haunting and fuzzed-out guitar lines and dark, avant-garde lyrics, mixed a certain mellowness despite the fuzzed noise coming from the guitars, Spiderland is completely unique, and completely influential.
Spiderland begins with the excellent Breadcrumb Trail
, which wields a soft-loud progression similar to the more popular grunge bands around at the time. Singer Brian McMahan mumble-speaks for the soft parts, and the lyrics are dark and heavily descriptive. Everything seems to embody a dark ambience, despite the distorted guitar riffs making a hell of a lot of noise. The soft parts build and build, and act as if they're flinching from something, as if they don't want to meet the loud part. But when the progression is finally complete, the guitars reach a new level of distortion and McMahan screams like a man processed. Than, only seconds later, the song slows down back into the dreamy haze of the slow parts, and the progression begins again.
isn't a whole lot different, but it manages to pull off the seemingly impossible task of sounding darker and scarier than the first track. Nosferatu Man
is more riff-based, with crunchy stoner-riffs accenting the jazzy drum patterns and McMahan's spine-tingling whispers. Unfortunately, these riffs do get somewhat repetitive, especially towards the end, which is basically five minutes of repeating fuzz. Good thing the next song is so excellent: Don, Aman
is a morose, depressing track, with the vocals barely hearable and the repetitive guitar line sounding distant and alone, giving the song a lonely, desolate feeling. The song stays slow, dark, and almost empty for four and a half minutes until a brief guitar breakdown, which, instead of making Don, Aman
more exciting and terrifying, increases the loneliness felt throughout the song. This brief moment of crunch condenses back into the slow emptiness, as if guitarist David Pajo quit midway through his solo and gave up, succumbing to the darkness.
is the clearest example of McMahan actually singing, his voice approaching a dreamy high pitch that wobbles despite its cleanness. The song is an eight-minute stunner, and is both the epic and the highlight of the album. Beginning dreamily, McMahan indeed sings, yet sounds like he's in a trance while doing it. The simple guitar line mixed with the relatively simple singing takes you away, as you begin to fall into the same dreamlike state. And just when you're finally carried away into that dreamy, other-worldly consciousness...BAM. You're jolted back to life with a fuzzed-out guitar riff that, while not actually being loud, seems sonically bigger than anything else you've ever encountered.
After the epic that was Washer
, how do you follow it up? Simple: Slint lures back into the dreamy, druggy state you were experiencing before you were rudely interrupted. For Dinner...
is completely instrumental, and is even more desolate and simple than you could ever imagine. The actual sound of the guitar is so soft that, at times, you barely know if you're listening to a guitar line or not: sometimes you wonder if you're just imagining the repetitive sound. All this dreaminess leads to Good Morning, Captain
, which, despite being nearly eight minutes long, is the most song-oriented track on Spiderland. The guitar manages to be loud enough for an actual riff to form, and, midway through, expands into a shoegazer-inspired breakdown that is so surprising that it seems louder than it actually is. The lyrics are cryptive and haunting, and actually sort of creepy. The song ends with McMahan screaming "I MISS YOU" like he's on fire, while the guitars churn out a grunge-y guitar riff. It's loud and simple, almost the exact opposite of what Spiderland really is.
And what is Spiderland? Despite me managing to fill five previous whole paragraphs about the album and its greatness, it's actually one of the toughest albums to describe...ever. The emotional value this album brings to me is impossible to put into words, and this same emotional value will definitely not reside in everyone. Hell, it won't reside in most people. But, for such an uncompromising album, it has managed to influence an entire new wave of artists, and influence a complete genre. And because of this, Slint's Spiderland is a surefire classic.