A lot of bands heard Slint’s Spiderland, saw the light and decided to make the same kind of music, but few were as shameless about it as Seattle’s Engine Kid. The five-song debut EP by the trio of Greg Anderson (vocals, guitars), Brian Kraft (bass) and Chris Vandebrooke (drums) pays homage to Slint to the point of claim-jumping. There’s that very quiet — VERY LOUD — very quiet/weird time signatures dynamic (all over); there’s the inaudible-story-with-instrumental-accompaniment thing (“Furnace”); there’s a Neil Young cover, just like Slint used to do live (Engine Kid’s choice is “The Needle and the Damage Done”); there’s something very much like the riff from “Nosferatu Man” (in “Astronaut”). It’s all perfectly competent, but the hidden noise piece at the end (yes, another one of those) is the only thing that Slint hadn’t already done better.
Matters improve a bit on Bear Catching Fish (recorded in “the basement of some guy’s brick house” in Chicago — wonder whose?), which reprises “Treasure Chest” from the EP. They’ve still got the same slow tempos and dramatic volume shifts, but their relationship with Slint has been transformed to influence rather than impersonation. Unfortunately, they don’t have much else: the only song that’s especially notable is an improbable cover of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.”
The band then replaced Vandebrooke with Jade Devitt, toured a lot and got a hell of a lot better. Instead of the big shifts in dynamics, Angel Wings delivers a titanic, punishing wall-of-oomph. Possibly as a result of contact with labelmates Iceburn, a Salt Lake City group fusing jazz, classical and punk, Engine Kid also seems to have discovered jazz: one track is called “Herbie Hancock,” and the album ends with a twelve-minute-plus cover of John Coltrane’s “Olé,” abetted by a couple of members of Silkworm on horns. And they’ve learned they can play fast — the album’s high point is a pummeling 78-second instrumental, “Nailgun.” Following even more roadwork and a couple of compilation tracks, Engine Kid split up.