City Paper is not for tourists
Of all the great indie-rock records of the early ’90s, none is more obscure than Wingtip Sloat’s Half Past I’ve Got. The 1992 EP was released as a double seven-inch in a white paper bag and, due to its format and packaging, was tough to find even when it was technically available. The trio from Northern Virginia took great care with each record, hand-printing all 2,500 of the covers, as well as scrounging to find more bags after the first thousand or so ran out. Its popularity had everything to do with its rangy ambition: Wingtip Sloat’s early music is a glorious mishmash of jingle-jangle folk, Lower East Side skronk, and lyrics that make Arcade Fire seem about as edgy as Kelly Clarkson. You might think that a band such as this would be eager to reissue its best recording. But you’d be wrong. Fifteen years after its release—and six years after the band started looking for the master tapes—Half Past I’ve Got is only now making its first appearance on CD. The record is part of the new odds-and-sods disc, Add This to Rhetoric, which also culls two other singles, a 1990 demo, and a variety of leftovers. For a sense of the time, there is perhaps no better collection. Wingtip Sloat was there at the dawn of indie rock, a genre that had yet to settle into an identifiable set of rules. What you hear on Add This to Rhetoric is pretty much what you hear on Pavement’s early singles: a band throwing whatever against the wall just to see what sticks. Sometimes the results are goofy (the alt-country satire “Kill the Klansmen”), and sometimes they’re more hip than fun to listen to (the free-jazz experiment “Pit Caple Castle”). But every so often, the band stumbled upon the sublime. On “Blessed Nimbus, Churning,” a 1991 track from its self-titled debut, Wingtip Sloat proves itself capable of writing the kind of urgent, memorable hooks that Dinosaur Jr. was churning out at the time. That the good stuff is preceded by 30 seconds’ worth of random chatter and guitar squiggle is typical. Wingtip Sloat, which released its last new music in 1998, has always made listeners wait for moments such as this. Judging by the belated appearance of Add This to Rhetoric, the band is still up to its old tricks.