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Slint - Profile

  by Mark Rowland

published: 17 / 10 / 2002

Slint - Profile


Despite playing together for only four years, and only releasing just two albums, Louisiana post-rock group Slint have been and are massively influential. Mark Rowland examines their remarkabale legacy

Slint were a band that died young. They played together for only four years, released just two albums, and that was it. But in the eight tracks that made up second album 'Spiderland', they defined a genre, and gave themselves a permanent legendary status amongst post-rock afficionadoes and alternative figureheads alike. The band members themselves give a more modest interpretation of the effect of 'Spiderland'. "I've heard that some bands have mentioned us as being an influence" is how founder member and drummer Britt Walford described the situation a couple of years ago, which could well be a hot contender for understatement of the millenium. Their fan base includes everyone from lo-fi pioneer Lou Barlow of Sebadoh, who put 'Spiderland' closer 'Good morning, Captain' on the soundtrack to the 1995 Larry Clark film, 'Kids' that he was compiling, to Big Black/Shellac frontman and legendary producer, Steve Albini, who recorded their debut album 'Tweez'. Albini said of the band, "Slint were totally unique. I like records and music that surprises me. Even ten years later I'm totally astonished by it". Their fan-base even extends to true rock royalty. While recording Page and Plants 'Walking into Clarksdale' album, Steve Albini lent 'Spiderland' to Robert Plant, and never saw it again. Supposedly, the ancient rocker liked the record so much that returning it completely slipped his mind. Slint was formed in 1987 by Walford and long time friend and guitarist Brian McMahan, after the implosion of seminal teenage hardcore band Squirrel Bait, of which McMahan was a permanent member, and Walford played on a few of their tracks. The line-up was completed by guitarist David Pajo and bassist Ethan Buckler. They played a few shows in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, then recorded and released debut album 'Tweez' on their own Jennifer Hartman label in 1989. As mentioned earlier, it was Albini produced, and as Pajo admitted, "It had a major Big Black influence.". It was a scrappy release in places, but no-one could accuse it of being boring or unoriginal. All tracks were named after the band member's parents (and the drummers' dog), and combined sprawling, feedback ridden guitars with more restrained clean guitars, disjointed drumming and rumbling bass, were topped off with McMahan's unique spoken/screamed vocals. It was praised by critics, but sold very little beyond the band's friends and family. It wasn't long before Slint entered the studio again, after a change in bass players, Buckler being replaced by Todd Brashear. Firstly, they went in to record two tracks, 'Glenn', and a re-working of a 'Tweez' track 'Rhoda', that would re-emerge four years later on an EP released post-humously. The second time was to record 'Spiderland', which would prove to be the band's swansong. Reportedly, it was an extremely traumatic time for the band, so traumatic, it seems, that it was too stressful for the band to carry on. The record itself was far darker and more focused than 'Tweez', with each song based around a quiet/loud/quiet dynamic which has since been adopted by bands like Mogwai. The band's lyrical content had also moved on in leaps and bounds, McMahan half-whispering dark tales of isolation and serial killer-esque rage over the top of sinister, discordant guitars that creep up on you before building up into an impressive wall of noise, McMahan's whisper replaced with an anguished scream. The band members remain understandably quiet about what actually happened during the recording of 'Spiderland', though it is rumoured that the band had themselves committed after they'd finished recording. "We were definitely trying to be serious about things, pretty intense, which made the recording of the album kind of stressful." admitted McMahan in an old interview, "I guess some of the lyrics on 'Spiderland' came out of that; they're kind of dark and shadowy." When 'Spiderland' was released in 1991 on Touch and Go records, the album was over looked in favour of the fast rising Seattle bands of the time, and once again, Slint's album sold only a handful of copies. In the years to come, however, Slint's name gradually found it's way into the minds of more and more people, as artist upon artist queued up to pay homage to the abdn, and in particular to'Spiderland'. The endorsement of high-profile acts such as PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth introduced all of their fans to the band, and as more and more Slint copy bands emerged from the woodwork, more articles on the band appeared in music magazines, and the posthumous releases piled up as labels rushed to cash in on Slint's rise in popularity. In an interview at the height of this rise, Pajo modestly stated "They kind of put it (the music) on a pedestal like it was this huge mysterious thing, but it wasn't." These days, McMahan records with his new post-rock/trip hop band The For Carnation, who have been going since 1993, and released a full-length album in 1999. Britt Walford now plays with post-punk band Evergreen. Dave Pajo briefly joined Tortoise in the mid-nineties, and is now a member of fromer Smashing Punpkin frontman Billy Corgan's new project Zwan, while Brashear has guested on numerous albums. All members of Slint have at one time been members of Will Oldham's Palace Brother's project, the man who, incidently, took the picture used for the cover of 'Spiderland'. One thing that must be in the back of all the minds of Slint's former members, is that no matter what they do from now on, they'll probably never escape the brooding shadow of 'Spiderland'.

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Slint - Profile

Slint - Profile

Slint - Profile

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Interview (2008)
Slint - Interview
One time Slint guitarist, David Pajo has since gone on to play with artists such as Tortoise and Will Oldham, had instrumental projects and currently plays with Dead Child, an old school heavy metal band. He speaks to Mark Rowland about the many different strands of his career

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