For those of you unfamiliar, and you ought’a be fuckin ashamed, Shellac are a self described “minimalist rock trio” consisting of Todd Trainer, Bob Weston, and, most notably, Steve Albini. Albini, or course, made a name for himself in such seminal post-hardcore acts as Big Black and Rapemen, as well as by producing albums from Nirvana, Slint, and Fugazi (The last never saw daylight, but the production did in fact occur).
Over the course of their 22 year career, Shellac have released five stellar studio albums, and have promised another to be released next month. In anticipation of what is undoubtably going to be a raw, energetic bit of post-hardcore, here’s a taste of Shellac’s debut studio LP, At Action Park.
My Black Ass: Right out of the box, Shellac are crunchy and abrasive; atonal and cathartic. Weston’s thick, distorted bass drives this heavy opener with brooding intensity. Albini’s lyrics are wry and cynically playful, as would become a theme over the course of Shellac’s career. Track one sets the stage for a noisy, loud, and appropriately edgy exercise in true post-hardcore.
Pull the Cup: Excitement seems to slow up on this track, which oftentimes feels like no more than a repetitive, uncreative bit of instrumental filler. That said, it does possess the capacity to be a pleasingly overwhelming assault of noise; scratchy and anxious.
The Admiral: Here, Shellac continue to pair distant bass and treble tones with unsettling, dissonant genius. Albini’s lyrics are wry, dark, and degenerate, his chords fresh and dissonant and Weston’s bass is driving and danceable, creating a sinister groove you could almost call catchy.
Crow: This is yet another track driven by Weston’s bass, with a feeling of urgency reflective of the existential anxiety expressed by Albini’s lyrics; "Your life is only that with which time has its way with you." During the last couple minutes, the track breaks into some intensely catchy riffage as Albini shrieks us out.
Song of the Minerals: Albini sounds perhaps his most exasperated on this, another absolutely harsh attack of noise paired with Weston’s snide, domineering bass. There’s plenty of dissonance and sound play here, the likes of which would make any respectable purveyor of the avant-garde turn green.
A Minute: On this punky, rapid track, Albini seems to almost channel his inner Henry Rollins, spitting his lyrics with the intensity and conviction reminiscent of the classic hardcore punk.
The Idea of North: This one starts out as notably delicate for a Shellac track, driven predominately by Trainer’s steady drumming before Albini’s melodic distortion kicks in, giving the track new life. Overall it moves slow and is neither overtly exciting nor incredibly beautiful, but it’s certainly an enjoyable listen.
Dog and Pony Show: On this track, not a real highlight, Albini delivers his lyrics with a typically relaxed, sporadic cadence and strums out some almost metallic guitar riffage.
Boche’s Dick: This, the shortest track on the album, is easily a tiny, musically concise gem.
Il Porno Star: At Action Park's closer honestly doesn't feel like one, and is all the better for its non finality. It's average length, and in all other ways average, save for the sludge-metal-like slowness and intensity with which it often swaggers.