So I’ve been meaning to write this since like Christmas. 2005 is the year of Louisville, in many odd and yet pleasing ways. So back around Christmas, again, I was on this plane hurtling through a massive snowstorm on my way south from Chicago (layover, natch), and this wave sorta came over me. It wasn’t giddiness per se, nor anxiety, but possibly some combination of both. Hell I’m not even really sure what it was. But it was something.
So yeah, I’ve always been a homer. Y’know, the guy who always roots for his home team no matter how many bonehead plays they make (Francisco Garcia, why do you foul three-point attempts with no time left?). So it’s not surprising that I would feel something strangely happy and crazed on returning. But I’ve gone home lots of times; mostly it’s no big deal. No, it had already started, this 2005-year-of-Louisville nonsense. So like a soon-to-be-jilted suitor, I’ve been learning to savor the moment before the inevitable. Actually, strike jilted, even when things go right they can be inevitable. Anyway, so I’m gonna try to roll it out, what it is I’m thinking about, if I can.
1. Past where the river bends, past where the silos stand, past where they paint the houses
Everybody thinks they know the story of Slint. I mean, everybody thinks the mythology is the thing, y’know? I’m not saying I’m better than everybody (I ain’t), but I think I might be one of the few — even with a so-called “insider’s perspective” (ha!) — to admit that I don’t have a fucking clue.
When the rumors of a Slint reunited first swirled like tumbleweeds in the digital desert of the internet, I was more than a little skeptical. Hell, those old rumors have been around since I was in high school — and that was a long time ago (missed my ten year last fall). Shit, I even saw Britt at a Jack Rose show in September, and the only music thing he mentioned was playing with Miighty Flashlight (well neither of us wanted to talk music, I think). But then it came true. For one time only, Slint is back, on tour.
Many have commented on the irony of this tour by a band that hardly played their hometown, much less an extended jaunt elsewhere. I never got to see ’em, either. Sometimes I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing, either: my friend Steve told me that the reason he thought they were brilliant when he saw them back then was because it was like “four retards playing the most godlike music” (apologies, no offense intended). But still, I missed Cafe Dog (well did they even play? y’know, the big riot show!), I missed the Kentucky Theater, I missed the VFW Hall and on and on. So I couldn’t miss this.
It’s kind of hard to explain, I admit. And I’ve told the story many times before (and it really isn’t a story but barely an anecdote): bought the lone, lonely copy of Tweez sitting in ear X-tacy for ages because of the sticker that said “Members of Solution Unknown.” Took it home, had adolescent mind blown. You’re thinking great, big deal, so what? and that’s understandable. I think that if I knew exactly how to articulate how I felt this music was a conscious part of me before I even heard it, well, I’d probably sound less arrogant and silly. But I don’t know how to articulate it (obviously). And it doesn’t even matter. I’ll see them this Friday and Saturday, and I’ll be that 13 year-old hearing this ageless, primeval Kentucky music for the first time.
2. Orders rescinded, and no pie
Bastro was headier. Now I know that’s just about the most obvious thing to say about a band with David Grubbs in it, but that’s not exactly what I mean. There’s something more to his music than just advanced degrees at elite institutions or arcane cultural studies, though that’s all anybody’s talked about since Gastr. There’s a sense of place, just like Slint. Well, not just like Slint. Not to get all Freudian, but Tweez is like the ur-, the id. And though Spiderland is a more “literary” album (bear with me here, people), musically it’s still this uncontrollable urge, this force of nature.
Bastro’s sorta like the ego and the superego put together. Okay, maybe I should quit with the Psych 101 bullshit. But you’ve got this intensely loud, raging music that’s tight, controlled. Dave’s lyrics are just as full of seemingly abstract imagery as the later Gastr stuff, but there is a text, and a lot of it is about Kentucky simpletons living in the modern world: “Shoot Me a Deer,” “Flesh Colored House.” So it’s complicated, ‘kay? Anybody who thinks Grubbs “got sophisticated” should hear this stuff, and Squirrel Bait too. It’s always been there, just in a hard-coated shell.
So hearing there’d finally be a two-for reissue of Diablo Guapo and Sing the Troubled Beast, the two long-gone Homestead albums, I was psyched, despite knowing them like the back of your mother’s hand. Then, hearing there’d be an additional live disc of stuff that would later be reworked into the early Gastr stuff, I was amazed. I mean, like, I knew Dave, Bundy and John were playing that stuff, but I never heard it then. Hell, like Slint, I never got to see Bastro live then, either.
But then, intrigue. Apparently there’s still some remnant of Homestead or Dutch East India left with enough gumption to threaten legal action (I’m no lawyer, but I’d think for contracts to be valid the record company has to hold up their end too, ie. PAY THE FUCKING BANDS), and now they’re “temporarily unavailable.” But never fear, the fine folks at Drag City will sort it out.
3. I think your brain likes it, your brain has a flaw
Now here’s where we get personal. Just kidding. Unlike Slint or Bastro, I saw Crain a whole mess of times, even booked ’em once. The running joke among the “oldsters” (no offense again!) was that Crain was like Bastro trying to play Slint. But fuck that, from where I’m standing, they’re just as essential, if you’re still hanging with me long enough to read about this Louisville stuff. Plus they were the first band that I really felt like, wow, these guys are only a little bit older than me, they’re doing it (yeah Squirrel Bait were preppy teens playing shows with G.G. Allin but I never saw them either).
So Speed. Record release show, one Sunday night sometime in the haze that is 1991, at Another Place Sandwich Shop on Frankfort Avenue. Hula Hoop and Sebadoh, two great bands in their own right, are also playing. I’d seen Crain a bunch, mind blown repeatedly, but this was it. Bought my copy with the special glow-in-the-dark cover (like only 200 made, eBayers!), complete with palindrome on record sleeve. Have listened repeatedly ever since.
I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted on that Sunday night the troubles Crain would succumb to over the coming years, and I’m not the one to catalog them. Suffice to say, if you experienced it, you know. Maybe that’s a cop-out, I dunno, but fuck it. Somehow, the master tapes survived years in a storage unit — and yielded 4 more songs to boot! How typically Louisville, in its way.
Yeah, there’s been some bumps on the road since January. Hunter S. Thompson’s dead. You can’t get those Bastro CDs yet. Uptight Britweenies have been dissing Slint’s live shows through the anonymous comfort of the internet. But it doesn’t matter. It’s here. It’s 2005.