Slint’s story is tailor-made for a music documentary. The band of obsessively dedicated teenagers from Louisville, Kentucky, released only a handful of songs in their original run from 1986-1990, with an aura of mystique around their genre-defining post-hardcore masterpiece, Spiderland. Lance Bangs’ 2014 film Breadcrumb Traildelivers the definitive oral history of their trajectory, joined by members of the Southern city’s eccentric music scene and other underground heroes such as Steve Albini, Drew Daniel, and Matt Sweeney.
After spending a few years playing with local legends like Squirrel Bait and Maurice, childhood friends Brian McMahan and Britt Walford began to explore a more expansive, emotionally vulnerable sound. Linking up with guitarist David Pajo, they made their unceremonious live debut at a Unitarian church under the name Small Tight Dirty Tufts of Hair. The band’s stacks of amps caused elderly audience members to file out in droves, but the young musicians knew they were onto something special.
As the documentary explains, Slint’s dissolution was set in motion after McMahan experienced a near-fatal automotive accident. This close brush with death would send him spiraling into depression, resulting in the anguished vocals and vivid themes of alienation that make Spiderland so powerful. McMahan quit the band shortly after its recording to check himself into a psychiatric hospital. Though they would not step on stage again together for another 15 years, Slint’s cult popularity only grew larger. Listen to McMahain painfully intone “I’m sorry, and I miss you” and you’ll understand why.