Saturday, March 27, 2021

"I feel like none of us are ever going to make a record like that again"

From one album celebrating a milestone anniversary to another. While Stone Temple Pilots' Tiny Music was released to an uncomprehending reception, at least it got a reception. By the time Spiderland saw the light of day, in March 1991, Slint had already split up. There was no promotional tour or media campaign, and - despite a rabidly enthusiastic "ten fucking stars" Melody Maker review written by their former producer Steve Albini - the album seemed destined to sink without trace.

It didn't quite turn out like that. With its minimalist ethic, focused intensity, spoken-word vocals and shifting tension-and-release dynamics, Spiderland has since been recognised as a classic, effectively kickstarting not one but two genres: math rock and post-rock. Not even another almost universally feted record released in the same year, Nirvana's Nevermind, could claim to have done that. Even more remarkably, it consisted of just six tracks, most of which were worked on repeatedly over a couple of years by four unlikely-looking rock stars in their drummer's parents' basement.

In an engrossing in-depth interview, Rolling Stone's Hank Shteamer spoke to the quartet - Brian McMahan, Dave Pajo, Britt Walford and Todd Brashear - about a record that he lauds as "an unclassifiable triumph of rock moodcraft", McMahan brands "totally some nerd dude music" and Pajo describes as "just a snapshot of youthfulness: the romance and the despair and the laughter".

It's common knowledge (at least to those who know the album) that its instantly recognisable and widely parodied cover photo was shot by friend of the band Will Oldham, but I hadn't realised that he was in the lake with them while trying to take the picture, and they were all out of their depth and treading water. Shteamer's article also considers Spiderland's diverse musical influences (Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams, what McMahan calls AC/DC's "very hard, mechanical, rock & roll boogie"); explains that 'Don, Aman' is an anagram of Madonna, whom Walford was listening to a lot at the time; covers the crippling stress that reluctant frontman McMahan felt at having to record vocals; and reveals the fact that one of the respondents to their call for a female singer was none other than PJ Harvey.

Right, off to watch Breadcrumb Trail...

No comments: