Song of the Week: ‘Smaller Monsters’ by Worthington

Brace yourself for fall with a lush cut from the long-lost late-90s Portland/Walla Walla indie rockers.

By Conner Reed September 3, 2021

It's almost refreshing, in our tweet-addled age, to imagine the act of disappearing completely and never being found. Indeed, it's the de facto fantasy of many major pop stars right now, with Lorde, Lana, Taylor, and Clairo dropping bucolic return-to-nature records and Billie Eilish shouting "Just fuckin' leave me alone" near the end of her new spotlight-averse LP. 

Invisibility may have been less of a boon for Worthington, a mid-’90s group of childhood friends who formed in Walla Walla and made their way to Portland to run with your Elliott Smiths, Quasis, and Sleater-Kinneys. Inspired by acts like Pixies, the Smiths, and R.E.M., Worthington made ornate, literate, energetic music, culminating in 1998's excellent He Was Not a Micromanager. Almost nobody heard it.

Next month, He Was Not a Micromanager will get a well-deserved rerelease, preceded by the single "Smaller Monsters," which NME called a "chilled classic" back in 1998, in a rare bit of contemporary press. They were right on the money. It's strong evidence for the case that Worthington is a deserving, long-lost piece of the PNW indie rock canon.  

Remastered by Jackpot Studios owner/Elliott Smith archivist/general Portland music legend Larry Crane, "Smaller Monsters" layers a terse guitar, baroque piano, and spacious drums beneath lead singer Kurt Foster's baritone. After each chorus, the guitar crackles and the song threatens to burst apart, but then it reins itself in—the tension is thrilling. 

Lyrically, it's inscrutable in the fun, Blur way, with Foster repeating the phrase "Stop your melancholy slacks, boys" until you have no choice but to hit it with an "I don't know what she's saying, but girl, I am living." All in all, it's a lush, hypnotic, instantly ear-grabbing track, great for settling in under billowy autumn skies. He Was Not a Micromanager hits streaming in full on September 24.

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