SHELLAC 1000 Hurts (Touch & Go)
Despite being the connecting thread between Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac, Steve Albini is arguably better known for his parallel production career, his CV including credits on such classics of the modern age as P J Harvey's "Rid Of Me", Nirvana's "In Utero", Theweddingpresent's "Seamonsters" and the Pixies' "Surfer Rosa". As befits his dual role, Albini appears to be fascinated by the minutiae of the process of capturing and preserving sound: the vinyl version of "1000 Hurts" is packaged in a mock up of an open reel tape box (open reel being the potentially greatest audio format ever to be ignored by Joe Public - discuss), an unlabelled CD found inside within acres of bubblewrap appears to contain the entirety of the album again, both versions begin with format-specific technical information, which is a neat trick, even neater if you forget the fact that its already been played by Captain Beefheart and The Orb, and ponder the dual meaning of the album's title.
Initial impressions of "1000 Hurts" suggest "In Utero" less that album's (admittedly minimal) quota of radio-friendly hookline. Shellac's trio line-up is about as basic as rock music gets, but they join a long and distinguished line, stretching from the latest model Manic Street Preachers back through Nirvana to granddaddies Cream, of bands able to make the most of it, delivering the ten songs here with a brutal punch. Subsequent listens reveal depth behind the righteous anger and fury. Albini is never better than when cast as the cuckold: in "Prayer To God" he seeks the assistance of divine intervention to afford his rival a lingering and painful death. His repeated rant of "Kill him/Fucking kill him" might read a little tamely on paper in these unshockable, post-Eminem days, but listen to him spit out the words and you can harbour no doubts that he means it, man. The locomotive "Canaveral" is possibly even better. "What on earth could make him stick his cock in my wife? What on earth could make him stoop so low?", he muses, before a bizarre lyrical freefall finds Albini pondering exploding his rival's remains in outer space to fertilise rice in China, and starting up a country where the stamps and currency "all have Oswald's face".
There are moments of levity here too, believe it or not. "New Number Order" advocates randomising the sequential order of numbers to make things more interesting, whilst "Watch Song" skewers testosterone-soaked lad culture and the climate of violence it spawns. But that's not why you're here: you've signed up for the tussle of six strings against four, the clatter of stick on skin and Albini scaring the world to rights (or arguably to wrongs) over the top of it all. "This isn't some kind of metaphor! Goddamn, this is real", he teaches on "Squirrel Song". Believe it