Tanner Babcock

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Slint

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Year Title Rating
1989 Tweez 7.5/10
1991 Spiderland 8.5/10
1994 >>Untitled .../...
1994 Tortoise - Tortoise 7/10
1995 Tortoise - Rhythms, Resolutions, and Clusters .../...
1996 Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die 8/10
1996 The For Carnation - Marshmallows 7/10
1997 The For Carnation - Promised Works .../...
1998 Tortoise - TNT 6.5/10
2000 The For Carnation - The For Carnation 8/10
2000 Tortoise - Standards .../...
2004 Tortoise - It's All Around You .../...
2005 David Pajo - Pajo .../...
2006 David Pajo - 1968 .../...
2006 Dead Child - Dead Child .../...
2008 Dead Child - Attack .../...
2009 Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship .../...
2016 Tortoise - The Catastrophist .../...

Review last updated: June 18, 2019

Ugh, okay. I thought this was one of those bands that you don't have to explain. Like, the importance of how influential it was is very clear to people. I don't want to drone on and on about something lots of people already agree on, like I did with the Velvet Underground review. But I was mistaken about Slint, because apparently, some people still don't perceive the genius of Slint, nor the absolute mastery and dissolution of the rock vehicle, by what were a bunch of kids at the time. Slint is one of those handful of bands, one of those two or three-album wonders. You know the story: what was once a humble and amateur rock band blows up creatively in a short amount of time, and releases an absolute masterpiece after their timid and insecure debut album, then immediately breaks up due to the collateral emotional damage the masterpiece's production provoked, and pretty much stays broken up forever. My Bloody Valentine, Neutral Milk Hotel, Slint. The Olivia Tremor Control. Nick Drake, some could argue Joy Division. Aphrodite's Child, The Angelic Process. The list goes on.

The masterpiece I'm talking about here is obviously the album Spiderland.

Spiderland is really one of the most excellent, artful, and timeless rock albums, to ever grace this stunted medium of savagery. Slint makes the rest of these idiots look like cavemen banging rocks together, failing to live up to any creative standards. This album is incredibly dynamic. It doesn't talk down to its listener, in fact, it makes itself more inviting and approachable as a six-part album by carefully controlling music dynamics, sound space, distance, balance, equilibrium, and intense emotions. The album is such an instant classic among friends, hipsters, dad-rockers, metalheads even, because usually you love it right away, and the fire of interest you have in it is incapable of being snuffed, even after years. There is no post-rock without Slint. There probably wouldn't be much post-hardcore without Slint. Every math rock band to ever tour across the Midwest owes their career to Slint. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Swans, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, American Football, At the Drive-In. All of these guys wouldn't have achieved anything if they weren't standing on Slint's shoulders.

It becomes very clear in the first few minutes of Spiderland that you're listening to something bigger. Not a simple album full of songs. Not a thoughtlessly assembled collection of individual songs, each of which mean nothing and have no relation or compliment to the others. Because you've heard that before. You've been listening to that your whole life: shitty little clusters of songs, poorly mastered and poorly produced, top-heavy, sang without emotion or any kind of relatable human quality, brickwalled in the loudness wars, over-saturated with treble, and transcoded all to hell. As the trills and frolics of "Breadcrumb Trail" grace your ears with unconventional playing techniques, an alien time signature (7/4), and physical momentum so contagious you can see it, you realize that you've been saved - your life of listening to shit is over, and Slint is your guardian angel. Let them guide you to happier things.

Even though Slint is a simple four-piece ensemble, comparable to the vast majority of rock outfits from all over the world, they have such intricate mastery of their instruments, careful control of their utterances and physical momentum (which inevitably results in musical momentum), and they know how to create textures, atmospheres, motifs, themes, and illustrations, by playing their instruments in subdued, offbeat, and atypical ways. These days you have a thousand guys with those Korg synthesizers, the shoegaze guys with pedal boards and violin bows, "black gaze", power electronics, death industrial, the guy with the drum-machine, sequencers, samplers, Sunn amps, fuzz amps, bit-crushers. Lots of noise guys will just stand over a table of various sound devices and noise-makers, and not make eye contact their entire set. But in 1991, a mere 28 years ago, rock music that had any kind of atmospheric quality didn't really exist. There were no drones, hardly any synths or they were otherwise cheap and pitifully dated, no ambient stretches. If there were, it was always associated with dream pop or noise rock. This stuff didn't start to come along until albums like Spiderland, Talk Talk's Laughing Stock, and Loveless started to circulate and influence people.

Really there's no point in reviewing a masterpiece like this one, because it speaks for itself.