© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Review: Slint, 'Spiderland (Remastered)'

Slint's <em>Spiderland </em>box set comes out April 15.
Courtesy of the artist
Slint's Spiderland box set comes out April 15.

During its original run in the late '80s and early '90s, Slint never reached a huge audience: Its music was, by its nature, too dark and strange and sprawling. But its influence has stretched for decades, and its two full-length albums (1989's Tweez and 1991's Spiderland) are, to this day, counted as underground classics.

It's hard to talk about Slint without using two foreboding and loaded descriptors: "seminal" and "post-rock," neither of which conjures much in the way of warmth. To call a band "seminal" is to redefine its albums as homework; to call a band "post-rock" is to make it seem as shadowy and formless as self-important as the term itself. Listening to Spiderland now, freshly remastered for this box set by Bob Weston, it's clear how much it deserves reconsideration as a work of haunting beauty and surprising warmth.

As a vocalist, Brian McMahan rarely stays in one place for long, and he spends Spiderland speaking, speak-singing, whispering and screaming — sometimes well outside the forefront of the mix. But listen to the revealing nine-minute ballad "Washer," and you hear an uncommonly sensitive and lovely vocal, not to mention a big, bleeding heart. Slint is important, sure, but it's not just important. McMahan and David Pajo weave their guitars together in dense and foreboding thickets, but they also let their instruments breathe in great and graceful ways.

Spiderland is certainly getting the reissue package it deserves: a limited-edition $150 box set with three 180-gram vinyl LPs and two CDs (including 79 minutes of demos, outtakes, instrumentals, live material and other odds and ends), a 104-page booklet (complete with an essay by Will Oldham, who shot the photo on the original album's cover), and a 90-minute documentary called Breadcrumb Trail, by the filmmaker Lance Bangs. But the album still stands gloriously on its own as the modest and compact, six-song, 40-minute set it's always been. It's worth discovering and rediscovering, and worth celebrating as more than the sum of its influence.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)