On The Breadcrumb Trail
“In it’s best state rock music invigorates me, changes my mood, triggers introspection or envelops me with sheer sound. ‘Spiderland’ does all those things.”
Coming from a doyen of alternative rock like Steve Albini, that is high praise indeed. In his review of Slint’s second LP (published in Melody Maker in March 1991, a few days after the album’s release), Albini, with Agnus Nutter style accuracy, goes on to predict that although many will not pay ‘Spiderland’ much attention at first, 10 years hence people would be clamouring for a copy. The opening track, ‘Breadcrumb Trail’ reminds me of the self-titled opener to Black Sabbath’s debut, not just for its bleakness and stark, quiet-loud dynamics, but also in the sense that both have in themselves, if not entirely spawned, then set the tone for a whole genre. ‘Spiderland’s’ subsequent line of influence can be drawn all the way from Godspeed You! Black Emperor & Mogwai, to Black Country, New Road & Squid. It is now seen as a template for post-rock, having led a thousand bands down the breadcrumb trail of trying to capture that formula.
The mythical status that Spiderland has attained over the years is, I think, encapsulated by the cover shot. It’s incongruous – how could four fresh faced, carefree youths such as these produce music of the quality, and strangeness of that contained within? The shot’s monochrome treatment was perhaps an obvious choice, but also a masterstroke: this is no sunshine pop album from some new kids on the block.
Whilst their Albini-produced debut ‘Tweez’ was a little rough round the edges, it promised much. With all of its song titles dedicated to friends and family members, the relentless desperation and rage might leave you wandering how challenging life might be with the likes of Ron, Carol and Darlene in your inner circle. But, with the rough edges now removed, ‘Spiderland’ was Slint’s ultimate statement, so perhaps in hindsight it’s not so surprising that they decided to call it a day before it’s release. Maybe they thought that their music had no future, or it was just that the emotional exhaustion proved too much, either way the hordes of similarly fresh-faced bands who followed in their wake will be grateful that they made the effort. In the words of Mr Albini – “Ten f***ing stars!”