Sunday, 19 October 2008



The debut record by Slint was released in 1989 and nobody bought it.  They put it out on their own label, which traditionally has always been a fatal decision.  It is the exception not the rule that sees self released albums picked up and purchased.  Musicians make music and people run record labels for a reason, there is an art in both.

In many ways Tweez feels the ugly sister to the unabashed beauty (and horror) that is Spiderland.  Despite being their first record it is usually the second a fan will ever hear.  And when they do, it comes as quite a shock/surprise as it bears only a striking resemblance to what the band eventually wound up sounding like.  Sure there is the fuzz from the distorted guitars and an almost spoken word delivery of vocals and lyrics but these songs are short, economic and basically they sound like King Crimson.

It’s funny to note that despite being three songs bigger, this album is actually ten minutes shorter than Spiderland as it fails to make even the half hour mark in length.  But who’s timing?  Who cares?

Produced by Steve Albini (aka “Some Fuckin Derd Niffer”), this record is striking and sharp, a much clearer link to their pasts than their future.  They’d done their duty with hardcore in both Squirrel Bait and Maurice and now was time to expand on their skills it what was moving organically.

The album is split between two sides: “Bemis” and “Gerber”.  And the song titles are the names of their parents save for the exception of “Rhoda” which was the name of Britt Walford’s dog.  For the record: “Ron” and “Charlotte” are Walford’s parents, “Nan Ding” and “Charlotte” are Pajo’s, “Carol” and “Kent” are McMahon’s and Warren and Pat are Buckler’s.

Then there is the cover featuring the Saab 900 Turbo, which looks like it is about to run you over.

It begins strongly with “Ron”.  As with everything the band seems to do it is an unconventional opening as a drenched and distorted guitar sound pours over proceedings before swiftly being reigned in by a metal manoeuvre and left to hang until it is cut altogether.  And this all occurs in the first sixteen seconds.  At this point a crucial moment occurs the voice of Brian McMahon (sound like Steve Albini) drops “Steve, these headphones are fucked up.  They’re only coming out of one side, like the… Should I just bear with it or what?  Shit.  They’re fucked”.  By mistake we get a classic moment in alt rock.

Then all hell breaks out as the song spins out of and into control as some kind of crushing funk with major punctuation marks grips things and keeps them in check as McMahon goes off on a menacing, spite laden rant seemingly in the name of vocals.  And then it is all over within two minutes.  Suddenly things will never be the same again.

Coming back to the names thing, Slint was actually the name of one of Walford’s pet fish as opposed to the common belief that it is a combination of slit and cunt or slut, bitch and cunt.  Seems things aren’t so nasty/hostile after all.

However maybe I spoke too soon as the slow metallic throws of “Carol” emerge complete with the sound of smashing shards coupled with screaming then silent vocals and complex time changes.  What is going on within their existence?

The title Tweez comes as a reference to Walford’s collection of tweezers.  Why was he doing with so many tweezers?  Why did he need them?  What were the roots of such a fetish?  Is this the music of deviants?

Tweez is a cold album with Steve Albini’s fingerprints all over it.  Often the record resembles something more Rapeman than the band that went on to make Spiderland.  And as a result occasionally tracks will feel that they have finished before they have even started.  Also the crashing/smashing effects framing proceedings on tracks such as “Carol” very much resemble the Albini mindset.  Hell, McMahon even sounds like him when “singing”, as the vocals are shot through some weird wire connection.

It is funny to note for what such a respected and pioneering alternative rock act this is, so many of the songs do open with a similar metal bombast (the most criminal being the two opening tracks “Ron” and “Charlotte” which could almost be incestuous relations).  Indeed there is quite a sharding metal sound to the guitars in general.  Thankfully this was a band that knew how to use it, to harness the rock for good and not evil even if it did result in lumbering and moments of feedback extension.  Who was in a rush anyway?

A weird highlight occurs with “Darlene” which I swear take the same line as “Where Are You Baby?” by Betty Boo.  I defy you to disagree.  However the accompanying tale of a broken relationship helps take away the sugar, shredding proceedings to death in a most meandering fashion.  The delicacy is luscious and lucid as the song gradually steps up a gear and aims straight for mute pay off.

Listened to closely this is a more varied album than face value suggests.  Sure it lacks the pomp of Spiderland but in “Kent” there is a track that suggests sights in that direction while the pounding “Warren” provides the hardest, most hardcore and frenetic moment.

All in all this is a very compact album.  More math rock than post rock, it is a band being expansive and experimental within the realms of motion and decipherable.

It’s a jam.

Thesaurus moment: inchoate.

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