Codeine at Lincoln Hall | Concert preview
The slowcore pioneers are back. But don’t expect them to be in a hurry.
Not quite qualifying as a micro-genre, but certainly a stylistic trend from the fertile early ’90s, “slowcore” (or “sadcore”) described some of the era’s most distinctive and expressive underground bands. Slint and Seam come to mind. Codeine was a trio that perfected a massive quiet-loud dynamic of delicate songs at iceberg tempos. The band was hailed in cozy indie circles for its two albums and a mini LP on Sub Pop. Yet, it was the masters of major bummers—Low and Red House Painters—that gained enough momentum for longer careers.
Live, Codeine played it as it lived it. Its sensitive tunes translated to a show that while powerful and precise, also seemed likely to end in emotional wreckage at any moment. It was hardcore minus the sweaty workout.
Through the Numero Group’s completist urges and as an accident of the band’s perfectionist tendencies, Codeine gets its due and then some this summer with a six LP/3 CD collection called When I See the Sun that includes remastered versions of the three albums, as well as singles, demos, live recordings and Peel sessions—plus liner notes from the Flaming Lips and others. The band’s signature glacially paced rock holds up remarkably well, even for those not so prone to ’90s nostalgia.
Stephen Immerwahr’s unaffected voice carries a mix of hope and despair with which John Engle’s alternately tense and pretty chords contrast. The band is coming off festival appearances in Tokyo and London and a European tour, so it should be a well-honed machine by the time it reaches Chicago. Just don’t expect it to be in a hurry.