[LISTEN] [Label: Touch & Go Records] [Date Released: September 16, 2014] [Genre: Noise Rock /Math Rock / Hardcore]
Shellac is a band with a very narrow focus. They are a three piece featuring Steve Albini, a famous producer, on guitar and vocals, and churn out tight, mathematically precise rock mixed with a certain dry humor in the lyrical and thematic content.
Their newest album was released last year and is called Dude Incredible. When asked about what the title track is about, Albini curtly responded, “Monkeys.” When pressed to further elaborate, he said that it’s hard to get a group of people to go out and do something. For instance, one of the lines says “let’s leave this place directly, and go where the females congregrate, perhaps they’ll let us fuck them, and on the way we’ll have adventure.” Such a primitive focus, on food, sex, and group dynamics really gives that album a sort of anthropological focus, which coincides with the album cover, which is one monkey hurling another over its head.
Another stand out track is “Riding Bikes” which focuses on the travails of a pair of young men as they cruise around, “stealing things and breaking things.” The tone of this song is almost child-like but with very adult implications of mischief. The chorus is an anticipatory shout of “Riding bikes!” by Albini and his bass player Bob Weston, which sort of cleaves down like a guillotine in time with Todd Trainers drum fills and cymbal crashes.
All The Surveyors is another track which really focuses on the interplay between society and indecency. Albini shouts, “we have more of you than we can use!” and then goes into tangents reference the energy mass equivalence. It’s a really strange, cryptic track which comes at the middle of the album, and is rounded out by two more tracks which focus on the words “surveyor” all of which have a similar stop and go riff.
Of course, just like on any Shellac, or really any Steve Albini album, there is a good amount of muckraking Americana running through the lyrical content. For instance, the song Gary seems to be describing a small industrial town where people are working twelve hours a day and there are chimneys and smokestacks like cigarettes. The plodding nature of the instrumentals makes the song a really compelling portrait of industrial life.
The grave seriousness with which songs like Gary are written is an interesting parallel to the irreverent humor in a song like You Came in Me. Such a counter-point is what makes Shellac such a compelling band, and Steve Albini such an interesting personality. All of this is underpinned by the trio’s succinct musical ability, and many of the songs are very fast, ferocious, and fun. It’s like the old saying goes, never use cruelty when a joke will suffice, and in this case, both seem to be in order.
by Jonathan Lerner