I have a feeling this is going to be least popular episode. Ever.
Which is a shame. I accept that hardly anyone listens to Slowcore these days. Or Sadcore, as it was occasionally known. So much so that I was utterly unable to find one of my very favourite tracks on MP3: God's Green Earth by Idaho. There's a slightly warped version on Youtube (soundwise, not in a kinky way), which I'd urge you to dig out.
It's not even as if it was especially popular when it was at its 'height'. 1992-3. It operated in that interstice of time between grunge and BritPop (or whatever was the mid-90s thing in other countries). People had become jaded with squally guitars from young men in torn lumberjack shirts and trip-hop had come and mostly gone. Things had yet to turn full-on fun-retro Union Jack. As often though, that made for stimulating music, rather like the diverse mid-70s pre-punk scene. Narrativeless, all types of odd forms flourished.
One of which was Slowcore. Bleak lyrics, downbeat melodies, slower tempos. Often, but not always, minimalist arrangements. Galaxie 500 and American Music Club were the godfathers of the scene, but both usually played at more or less normal speed. Cortez the Killer by Neil Young is a significant ancestor. This episode starts with Blue Thunder - the shape of slow things to come.
I was in the audience for gigs by quite a few of these artists. Sparklehorse was so quiet I could only really hear people's conversations nearby. And because Mark Linkous appeared in a wheelchair, he was invisible to most of the audience. A gig you couldn't see or hear that was also really slow. Two days later I came down with a form of chronic fatigue that bugged me off and on for the next year. Happy memories!
I saw Codeine and you could tell they were coming to the end of the road. Playing in a London basement club to me and a handful of others, one of whom shouted his B-side request after each song.
But there was always Mogwai. And I saw them recently in a majestically powerful performance, and chuckled at their reverence for slow core and Slint in particular. You can't always tell where things will end up. Britpop was a musical dead end, in the end, while Slowcore lit a path forward in its own awkward, gloomy, unheralded way. I hope you enjoy the episode. As much as that's possible.
Blue thunder, Galaxie 500
Breadcrumb Trail, Slint
Mistress, Red House Painters
Take me somewhere nice, Mogwai
A tribute to, The For Carnation
Tears are in your eyes, Yo La Tengo
I see a darkness, Bonne Prince Billy
Morning paper, Smog
It’s a wonderful life, Sparklehorse