Touch And Go
By: Eric G.
It's amazing how many people are jealous of Steve Albini. Jealous of his bulletproof reputation as some sort of an underground God. Jealous of the fact that people kiss his ass no matter what. Jealous of not knowing about him or his bands until everyone else did. These jealous types often defensively pan Shellac albums because they finally feel like they have some power over him; they can give his band a bad review. I've read quite a few of them over the years. Almost all of them wonder what the big deal is. They all want to know why this guy is so highly revered. What perpetuates Albini's mystique is the plain and simple fact that he doesn't give a fuck what you think about him or his band. He knows what he's doing, he knows he's good at what he does, and he sticks by his guns.
1000 Hurts is Shellac's third and by far best album. Albini's signature shrill guitar attack is surrounded by one of the finest rhythm sections in rock. It may not be the showiest, but it's certainly one of the tightest. Todd Trainer beats the shit out of his drums, just as any rock drummer worth his salt should do. Bob Weston's bass tone is unmatched. It's thick and aggressive and punchy without sounding clunky, and he plays it with stubborn restraint. Albini's voice is the weakest link, but he makes the best of it, sounding like a lunatic when he screams. His lyrics are mean and sarcastic just like he is.
"Prayer To God" is an hysterical plea, in which Albini asks "the one true God above" to kill two people for him. The tone of his prayer is patronizing and dripping with sarcasm but the point is simple enough: "her, she can go quietly by disease or a blow/to the base of her neck where her necklaces close/where her garments come together/where I used to lay my face/that's where you ought to kill her/in that particular place." The music rises to meet his anger, which grows as he contemplates the deaths. "Squirrel Song" is a "sad fucking song" that showcases Shellac's incredible rhythmic precision. Albini proclaims "this isn't some kind of metaphor/Goddamn this is real" against Todd Trainer's propulsive drumming.
Shellac is no stranger to the build-up. Remember the first song on the last album? It built-up for about ten minutes before it finally kicked in, and then it was totally anti-climactic. I felt like a sucker for sitting through it. Shellac likes to rub your face in its agenda by deviating from the expected. In "Mama Gina" Albini assaults you with a guitar tone so shrill and piercing that it gives new meaning to the loud-soft dynamic. The ideas on Shellac records aren't necessarily new, but they are executed perfectly, which deserves almost as much credit.
What separates 1000 Hurts from the past two Shellac albums is the quality of the songwriting. Terraform spawned more actual "songs" than At Action Park and 1000 Hurts ups the ante once again. It's not a case of clinging to the verse chorus verse structure so much as an adherence to melody. "Song Against Itself" employs Shellac's trademark meaty riffage, but it also incorporates its most melodic vocals yet. The riffs seem even more memorable this time- to the point where you would possibly hum them later. Try humming older songs like "Doris" or "House Full Of Garbage"- see, not so easy.
Even with more melody Shellac hasn't lost an ounce of its brutality. 1000 Hurts is as good as its packaging. Pounding rhythms, sharp but sparse guitars, and repetitive bass lines bust through your speakers with exquisite production. Shellac is worth every bit of the hype. Don't believe the pansies that try to tell you otherwise. They're just jealous.