[Today: Slint’s family circle…]
In 1986, members of the Louisville, KY band Squirrel Bait broke off and formed Slint. Their debut album Tweez was recorded in 1987, released in ’89 and followed two years later by Spiderland, just before they broke up. The latter album has earned Slint a place in rock lore as the first “post-rock” band and brought them legions of late-coming fans and followers. But the adulation heaped on Spiderland has unfairly overshadowed the brilliance of their debut.
With squealing guitars, pounding drums, and mumbled/shouted lyrics about broken headphones and tweezer fetishes, Tweez is poorly suited for your next cocktail party. But this album has a dark streak that’s as arresting and artistic as the film noir of the 50’s or a Raymond Chandler novel. Guitarist David Pajo coaxes a variety of interesting sounds out of his instrument, while lead vocalist Brian McMahan doesn’t sing as much as he talks, laughs, grunts, screams and makes his voice another layer in the mix. Producer Steve Albini is a noted noise-nik, so nothing here is smoothed over and every sonic fiber feels intentionally frayed.
On ‘Carol’, McMahan bleats out a set of directions (“Past where the river bends/Past where the silo stands/Past where they paint the houses/PAST WHERE THEY PAINT THE HOUSES!”) with such urgency that it sounds like he’s describing the scene of a murder. Like the rest of the album, these obscure snippets of lyrics hint at something deeper, and are placed in a menacing musical setting that could be the soundtrack for a slasher movie. Both album sides play out like long musical suites, often lapsing into silence or a slight, thumping bass line, before Pajo and Albini ratchet up the buzz.
Considering the shadowy, sludgy sound of this album, it’s somewhat surprising that each of its eight songs (‘Ron’ ‘Pat’ ‘Darlene’ ‘Warren’ etc) are named after the bandmembers’ parents (except ‘Rhoda’, who was drummer Britt Walford’s dog). It’s all too easy to forget that the obsidian textures of Tweez were brought to you by a band of teenagers from The Bluegrass State.
Listen: Nan Ding