BLIND TASTE TEST: Slint – Spiderland

I have to say, I’m pretty nervous about this! I’m fairly sure this won’t be a record that you end up feeling indifferent about, but I really can’t tell which side of the fence you will end up coming down on.

Picking a Blind Taste Test record for you was pretty tricky. Most of the records that that I love and which hold a special place in my heart are also ones for which you share similar admiration. We have rhapsodised about many of them over a beer or two. The majority of the remaining records are ones I feel certain would provoke either your ire or your contempt!

This then, is something of a roll of the dice. I will be equally unsurprised if you end up loving or hating it. In essence a rock band, Slint take the genre and stretch the definition about as far as it will go. By turns quiet and pummelingly loud, and melodic and dissonant, with vocals that tumble between soft spoken word and howled anguish, it isn’t a pretty record. But there is something beautiful in the chaos. Imagine a lo-fi, punky take on early Mogwai.

If that’s already got you gnashing your teeth in horrid anticipation, I apologise for subjecting you to this. On the plus side, it’s less than 40 minutes long. I hope, however, that you managed to see some of what I love in this record. At the very least, I’m sure you will spot the huge influence that they have had on a wide range of bands.

For my Blind Taste Test, I have recommended Slint’s second and final record, Spiderland.


I have to say, Will, that I am also pretty nervous about this one. I have heard all sorts about this album, and had people literally rant in my face about how special it is, but yet I still haven’t made the time for it. And I think I know why. The way it is often discussed leads me feeling a little cold, like even for people to rhapsodise about it in the way they do suggests that there is going to be something pretentious and annoying about it – but who knows, maybe that’s just the people who’ve been ranting at me rather than the album itself.

That said, I have long intended to give it a listen – so here we go. Let’s see where I land.

The opening to ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ is gentler than I’d imagined this album would be, but you have mentioned above that it switches between quiet and loud so I am sure I have some ear-splitting moments to come. Despite the restrained instrumentation I am struggling to hear what he says when he speaks, and when he sings I am not immediately enamoured by his voice. But there is plenty about this song that is interesting. It doesn’t follow the predictable paths that it sets out, that’s for sure. And you’re right – you can see how influential they are even at this point.

But in terms of how it will fit in with my personal tastes, I’m definitely on the fence after track one.

‘Nosferatu Man’ captivates almost immediately, with it’s off-kilter drumbeat and screechy guitars. Just over a minute in and we are definitely in that loud territory you were talking about. Again, this is a really interesting track – it’s extremely unique and, while they are clearly influential, I haven’t heard anything else that sounds like this. Bands like Black Country, New Road have definitely borrowed heavily from their playbook, though.

But while I am enjoying it musically after two songs, I have to admit to wanting more from the vocal side of things. I am lyric man first and foremost and so much of what he is speak/singing here is buried in the mix. Maybe that would matter less as I got to know the album, but as a first-time listener I’m definitely wanting more insight into what these songs are about.

‘Don, Aman’ is the kind of song title that leads me to think I was correct about the level of pretentiousness on show here. This is the longest song so far at six and a half minutes and after two minutes of him whispering and plucking a guitar I am wondering when and if it is really going to get going. But the increase in pace that follows is very welcome. A theme is definitely emerging for me now, though – they’re clearly musically creative, inventive, and adventurous but unfortunately this vocal performance is becoming a little intolerable for me now. Stop. Bloody. Whispering.

The savage, distorted guitar as we near the five-minute mark is great, though.

Somehow, that’s half of the album gone. Although it seems like we are getting a little longer with each song. ‘Washer’ checks in at eight minutes and fifty seconds and after one minute ten I am feeling a little bit of dread at how that time that will be filled. But suddenly the singer is actually singing for the first time and I’m left wondering why he hasn’t been doing so until now. Because he can sing, his voice is kind of haunting and hushed – I like it. And for the first time a song is fully working for me on this album.

At the halfway point, though, I do really hope that this song goes somewhere new and interesting as we progress – it’s a long way to go with little progression. My preconceptions of this album were that it was probably going to be loud for the sake of being loud, so it is funny to me that as ‘Washer’ progresses I am willing him to let go a little bit and give us a scream – praying that someone will smack the shit out of a drum soon. It threatens to happen at the six minute mark, but then he’s almost whispering again.

Honestly, I am majorly conflicted at this point.

This track is going to end loudly, though – here it comes, here it comes, here it comes… kind of. They keep subverting my expectations, which I suppose is a good thing. But I really wanted a bit of noise there.

‘For Dinner…’ is almost a non-event. I have nothing to say other than it has reminded me to eat once I’m finished writing this.

And now we come to an end with ‘Good Morning, Captain’ – this could honestly sway me either way I think. If it sends us out with a bang I’d probably be back to see if this album grows on me, but if I feel we leave on a whimper then that might be it for my relationship with this much lauded LP. But like most other songs on the album, it does feel like a mixed bag to me – like it has so many of the ingredients, but isn’t quite using them properly. So many of the songs here feel like they are promising to go somewhere that they don’t – and maybe that’s the point. But I find it is holding me at a distance on this initial listen.

I can’t help but feel, though, that some of this is due to the expectations I had of this album not quite matching the reality of what I found. It isn’t the wall of noise I had been expecting and it feels like there is more of the quiet moments than the loud – I thought it would be the other way around.

So, Will, in the end – and rather amusingly – I have kind of ended up almost exactly where you thought I wouldn’t. I do not dislike this record at all, and have found plenty to peak the interest, but neither am I entirely grabbed by it as I can clearly see a few things that don’t quite gel with my tastes. You said I wouldn’t be indifferent – and maybe that isn’t quite the right word – but I am in the middle, seeing plenty to show me why people love this record, but doubting whether I’d ever fall in love with it myself.

Words by Will Collins and Fran Slater

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