Rock Legacy

Breadcrumb Trail: Lance Bangs Tells the Story of Slint



THERE'S NOTHING about Slint's story that presents itself as ideal fodder for a documentary. While the Louisville, Kentucky, band's taut and scintillating 1991 album Spiderland nearly rivals the Velvet Underground's first LP in terms of its musical influence since its release, the band died a quiet death. Slint broke up before their signature album was even released, with each member moving on to other projects, which, by and large, weren't as groundbreaking. The band's story seems better suited for a chapter in a retrospective book than a 90-minute nonfiction film.

In essence, then, director Lance Bangs' Breadcrumb Trail is really for those folks who were lucky enough to catch Slint's burst of brilliance as it happened. Bangs' film also serves as an elegy for the pre-Nevermind underground rock world, when zines and word of mouth were the best ways to catch up with the new and exciting music being made.

Bangs keeps the film engaging by emphasizing Slint's weird core: the band's skewed sense of humor (when they arrived in Chicago to work on their first album, they sent their new bass player to producer Steve Albini's front door... with a shotgun), and the strange, shared headspace that all four got into when spending the summer rehearsing the material that would become Spiderland.

While there's a little intra-band drama, the crises of the band's short history—such as the terrifying car accident that nearly killed singer/guitarist Brian McMahan—are quickly skimmed over. What seems more important to Bangs is hurrying along to charming anecdotes like drummer Britt Walford's post-Slint period playing with aging blues artists and working as a baker of erotic cakes. That's all fine, but it means that if you weren't already on board with the band, there's not much in Breadcrumb Trail to convince you of Slint's greatness. By leaving out the voices of the critics and artists who were so influenced by Spiderland, Bangs avoids the typical rock-doc clichés—but also doesn't give the non-fan a reason to pay attention.


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