In 1994, I fell in love with a record called ‘Angel Wings’ by a Seattle band named Engine Kid. Not really sure what drew it to me, or even why I bought it considering I didn’t even know what they sounded like. But somewhere in there, I bought it on CD, recorded it to cassette and listened to it daily on my Sony Walkman.
Looking back now, I think I had probably read the album description in the Revelation Records mailorder catalog. It read, simply, “The second LP to be released by Seattle’s Engine Kid. A combination of the quietness of Slint and the heaviness of The Melvins, Angel Wings’ features 11 songs that mesh post-rock, noise rock, and jazz.”
Knowing me, then, that would’ve sold me above and beyond becoming an Engine Kid believer. But it went even further. The record simply floored me. A mixture of epic, scathing noise ballads clocking in around seven minutes, combined with blasts of 2-3 minute instrumentals, a Coltrane cover, it was all there. Even the artwork grabbed me. My favorite being the back cover, a dark painting of a lone fallen angel, sitting at the edge of a cliff, overlooking a dark valley. Staring at that painting long enough to listen to the entirety of the pummeling six-minute long ‘Holes To Fight In’ got to be pretty cathartic after a while. I don’t know why, it just did. There was an episode of The Sopranos when Tony Soprano is at his therapist’s office, and he mistakenly discovers what could possibly be the source of his panic attacks after relaying an emotional tale of fainting after a fight with his mother. He stares at the ground in the office, bewildered. Here’s the exchange.
Tony Soprano: It’s like taking a shit.
Dr. Melfi: Ok. I actually like to think about it as a childbirth.
Tony Soprano Sr: Trust me. It’s like taking a shit.
That’s what Engine Kid did for me emotionally. It took all the anger, confusion and bewilderment that came with life as a 20-year old and flushed it away. An emotional release, a dark, fucked up way to come out of my bedroom and take on the world outside my door.
Later that summer, in Westfield, NJ, Engine Kid played a basement show. About 30 people gathered to watch. And somehow I knew to bring ear plugs. To this day, even though it was in a basement without monitors or any expensive amps, Engine Kid was the loudest live music I’ve ever experienced.
The album (and the band) have both been named-dropped as students of the Slint ‘Spiderland’ school of post-rock, but I think that’s a quick read of Engine Kid’s ‘Angel Wings.’ As a fan of ‘Spiderland’ as well, I do notice several moments of similarity, but only in the same way that I’d point at two different kinds of trees and say, “Hey, they both have leaves and branches.” That being said, there are start/stops, weird time signatures and streams of loud/quiet throughout ‘Angel Wings.’ But man, Engine Kid was fucking angry. Slint might’ve been angry people as individuals, but it never came across in their music. Engine Kid was furious, and a lot of the times still to this day, I can’t help but think that the member of Engine Kid really didn’t know how to channel their anger outside of the band. The result, came naturally through the band. Engine Kid, a trio comprised of Greg Anderson (vocals, guitars), Brian Kraft (bass) and Jade Devitt (drums), was the vehicle by which they grappled with anger.
Actually, they were the vehicle by which I grappled with my anger. One that’s stood the test of time and still serves an emotional purpose 13 years after the fact.