In December 2004, Shellac (Steve Albini, guitar/vocals: Todd Trainer, drums/vocals: Bob Weston, bass), who formed in Illinois in 1992, recorded a session dedicated to John Peel: a fitting tribute, since he had been a supporter of theirs from the first album, Action Park, onwards. That album yielded two Festive Fifty entries: The Dog And Pony Show (FF 1994 #24) and Crow (FF 1994 #18). To say that this group rock is something of an understatement. Crow starts with an ear-tickling time signature that resolves itself into a solid, angular beat.
In a lot of our songs something is stated and then it’s implied, or it’s stated and then it disappears and it comes back later. The pacing of a song is more important than what we’re actually playing. [Steve Albini]
Their songs are purportedly about the two subjects in the post title, but in fact deal with deeper themes: this song deals with the passing of time, for example.
The Dog And Pony Show is an angry diatribe against those who present a false face to the world, and the mordant, sarcastic lyrics are matched by Albini’s growled and shouted delivery.
I want what we’re doing to make sense. I’ve never liked bands that play cutesy music with cute subject matter, who then try to imbue it with some energy that doesn’t really come across. I much prefer a band who seem like they’re thinking the way their music is implying, rather than putting on a stage persona. [Albini]
However, nothing prepares one for the raging onslaught of Prayer To God (FF 2000 #19), from 1000 Hurts. The vocalist describes how he wants God to destroy his ex-girlfriend and her new lover, the message hammered home by the repeated line ‘just kill him, fucking kill him’.
Shellac is our artistic and cathartic release. It always feels so amazing to play together. I’m still amazed at how great it feels when we’re playing together…the energy and aggression and beauty and absurdity. [Bob Weston]
Both Weston and Albini are recording engineers (Albini is remembered by many as the recording engineer on Nirvana’s In Utero), and this comes over on their recordings, which sound bright, steely and focused to match their visceral sound.
We are not novices, and we have a realistic expectation of what can happen in the studio, so we don’t harbor fantasies about what “magic” will come to bear on our recordings. [Albini]
If you’ve never heard their sound before, you are in for a great surprise: it will make you want to explore their urgent, keening style further. (The last song, by the way, is dedicated to Sunny, Dan, Ann and Jim. You know who you are.)