Friday, April 18, 2014

"Breadcrumb Trail" (Slint documentary, dir. Lance Bangs)

This might be the definitive "for fans only" documentary -- essential for fans of Slint and "Spiderland", confusing and utterly irrelevant for everyone else.

It struck me while watching this film that even though their music was freakish and unconventional, as a band and a collection of personalities, Slint were as cliche as any other rock outfit.  The guitarist was a quiet loner who looked unassuming until he started to shred; the singer was a moody, nervous, angst-filled guy; the bassist tried to stay out of people's way and was the most invisible, underappreciated band member; and the drummer was an out of control weirdo.  I guess you could say that about 99% of bands though.  The story tends to repeat itself -- on record they were dour and serious, but in real life, they were young kids having fun.  The former members and entourage of Joy Division let their myth build up over the years before eventually clueing fans into the fact that they were getting drunk and laughing their asses off most of the time. Now it's Slint's turn.

"Breadcrumb Trail" is almost entirely composed of interviews.  It's an oral history told in front of a camera, but the principals get plenty of face time so by the end of it you feel like you've had a fairly intimate look at the personalities of everyone involved.  The snippets of archival footage is outstanding and really attunes you to how young and how talented Slint were (and how pretentious ... tuning up for 1.5 hours at a high school "Battle of the Bands" show?  Totally dickish but also hilarious).

The major flaw of the documentary is that the breakup of the band in 1991 is mostly glossed over.  Maybe they wanted the subject to be off-limits, maybe they wanted to keep mum about it (even after twenty years) to add to their mystique, maybe they don't want to open old wounds in the interest of keeping their occasional reunion gigs going.  Still, it's odd considering the level of detail in the rest of the film.

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