Thursday, August 23, 2007

Slint (Koko's, Camden)

Slint aren't big ones for showmanship. They barely say a word during this gig, which is mostly a presentation of their neglected classic Spiderland for the Don't Look Back series. "We love you!", shouts the odd punter every now and then. It puts me in mind strangely of Robbie Williams.

I say neglected - it was neglected in 1991 when it was released. It's accrued a following since then, and Koko's is absolutely rammed full. When we entered, there was a sign at the door saying that tickets were available, but god knows how that was possible given the crush inside. Maybe there were a lot of people who turned up on the off chance.

I wonder what it must be like for the band, to reconvene after the best part of 20 years and revisit their songs? When I look back at things I wrote in 1991 they seem the product almost of a different person, and I've remained active since then.

It's a strange atmosphere - even more so than when we saw Low here, and heard audience members calling out for them to play their favourite song: "Whore!". On the one hand there's an air of reverence, as though we're hearing some long-lost Beethoven quartet. On the other hand, as a song begins, there'll be a smatter of applause and cheering, much as you might encounter at a Barry Mannilow concert.

It feels odd to be standing in a packed hall listening to music that seems designed to be listened to alone. Which is not to say it's not a powerful experience. Fragments of rock 'n' roll hang in the air, like the tattered curtains in Miss Haversham's house. Innocuous, insignificant meanderings slowly build to thundering, relentless climaxes. This sort of thing gets described as "post-rock", and you can see the meaning of that - it sometimes has the feel of looking at an archaeological find, of a long lost and forgotten thing called rock music. There's a strange combination of intensity and distance, sometimes seeming almost like Led Zeppelin playing Kraftwerk (or should that be the other way around?).

Slint only made two albums, so they've a limited repertoire to follow on after they've taken us through "Spiderland". They do play a new song though, a haunting, majestic beast that's hugely impressive. Rumour has it they may work themselves up to a new album. If they can match what we heard here tonight, it'll be well worth waiting for.

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