Friday, August 17, 2007
Wingtip Sloat Reviewed On Pitchfork.
Fifteen years down the road Wingtip Sloat finally recieves some much deserved recognition.
Add This to Rhetoric
As is often the case with concurrent, like-minded bands, a lot of the underground rock groups of the early 1990s felt pretty similar at the time, but eventually splintered widely. Some ventured above ground (Pavement, Sebadoh), some followed unbeaten paths (Sun City Girls, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282), and some ended up frozen in time (Trumans Water, Fly Ashtray). A rare few left behind music that remains inextricably tied to the era, yet is somehow transcendent too.
Virginia's Wingtip Sloat were that kind of band. Their brainy brand of indie/punk/grunge/math, married as it was to pre-computer recording and pre-dot-com slackdom, could only have happened in the early 90s. Yet it sounds uncannily fresh today, as if high-rises and strip malls shot up around the group's basement studio without tarnishing the beer-drenched walls and tobacco-stained bathroom, leaving their fantastic sound echoing there, perfectly preserved and surprisingly undated. You can hear that decently on the band's two later albums, 1995's Chewyfoot and 1998's If Only For the Hatchery. But the most convincing proof has up to now gathered dust on early, out-of-print 7"'s and cassettes.
Add This to Rhetoric collects those artifacts, forging a kind of living, sweating time capsule. As for what it actually sounds like, that's best left to Sloat's Patrick Foster, who in his liner notes calls the perfectly-titled "I Wish I'd Been There to Make It a Cliché" the prototypical Sloat song. "It's all there," he rightly boasts. "Arch/true/ironic song title, stop-start nervous discharge, chaos, self-referencing lyrics, kick-axe drumming, a gut-punching bass, a guitar hanging on for dear life and a ridiculous coda that even made us laugh most of the time." To which I'd add a proggy use of shifting tempos, an affinity for overlapping vocals, and a snarling energy more openly indebted to punk than anything Pavement would've ever copped to.
Otherwise, Wingtip Sloat and Pavement's influences were pretty similar, from the Velvet Underground across to the Fall and Wire and up through the Swell Maps, the Clean and Tall Dwarfs. But in contrast to Pavement's sly dodges, Wingtip Sloat owned up to their borrowings. Hence the inclusion here of their irresistible takes on the Swell Maps' "Read About Seymour", the Clean's "Anything Could Happen", Tall Dwarfs' "Beauty", and, in a nice show of team loyalty, Sun City Girls' drunken "Kill the Klansmen".
But Wingtip Sloat's originals burn most brightly through the haze of intervening years. Their 1991 debut 7", which opens the album, is basically perfect, four tracks full of rhythmic turns, spilling guitars, and savvy vocals. Sloat followed that up in 1992 with a 12-track double 7". Here the band's manic three-minute songs sit snugly next to one-minute toss-offs, much the way a stoned conversation turns profound musings and fleeting babble into sides of the same coin. (Such wordplay was a skill the group honed through their "pre-blog post-punk racing form" Sweet Portable You, which printed stories, rants, and other oblique ramblings under the guise of record reviews).
The rest of Add This to Rhetoric doesn't quite hit the same highs, but it's never less than compelling. The band continually finds the kind of mini-epiphanies that can only come from basement music made outside the sterilizing light of pro studios and promo budgets. That effect is summed perfectly by the album's back cover, a track listing made simply by piling up the individual, hand-decorated cassettes each song was recorded on. It's enough to transport you back to a time when cassettes and handwriting still mattered. But Add This to Rhetoric is no nostalgic reverie; it's less like faded ink than wet paint, still dripping with vivid sounds and ideas.
-Marc Masters, August 17, 2007