The first Shellac record that I bought was Terraform in college. I popped it onto my record player and shortly thereafter fell oddly in love with Shellac's minimalist crushing sound. Todd Trainer (drums) and Robert Weston (bass) provide a heavy tight rhythm while Steve Albini (guitar) lays over a tin can like tone, or lack there of some might say, but that is subjective. You will always find the vocals low in the mix, sounding like they're behind you. Albini and Weston provide most of the vocals, usually a mix of half-yelling and talking. They also provide a little vocal melody here and there. The lyrics are short, simple, and sarcastic, and never really seem to have one original thought, with some exception. The music, on the other hand, follows in off beaten paths, and sometimes sparse space, but usually return to the original thought.
Shellac's The Futurist (often referred to as the Friends of Shellac record) is two tracks at over thirteen minutes long each. It's one continuous rock composition that features some experimentation in noise, space, and timing that shows you it's all up to them how it's used. Shellac likes to test the listeners' patience using heavy repetition; you'll find more than one Shellac album with a perfect display of "tension and release." Terraform features an opener that is as tedious as the title, "Didn't We Deserve a Look at the Way You Really Are." And their latest and fourth installment, Excellent Italian Greyhound, the first in seven years since 1000 Hurts (named in reference to Trainer's pet dog), opens in the same form with "The End of Radio."
Albini plays the role of the last D.J. on earth giving his last broadcast as he stays on the air in hopes of a caller, announcing, "It's the end of radio!" Weston provides a three chord bass line for the entire eight minutes of "The End of Radio." Trainer takes up most of the space with his drumming, while Albini chimes in with twangy echoing hooks after cleverly spinning that popular catch phrase by Verizon, "Can you hear me now!" "Steady as She Goes" is superb; it's heavy chugging pure-rockage shoved down your tiny gullet. "Be Prepared" sounds like a southern-rock ode with it's quick bluesy hammerons, stopped abruptly at 2:00 minutes to Trainer's face punching drums, then starts as fast as it stopped that will have you picturing muscle cars spitting up dirt, and gravel, launching off 100ft ramped gaps. "Elephant" finds reference to Fugazi as Weston sings, "Here comes, here comes the argument."
"Genuine Lullabelle" takes some time to realize its greatness. To clue you in, it's a nine minute track that might have you pacing at first, lyrics that are as quirky as the overdub voiceovers from popular Homestar Runner character Strong Bad and what sounds like Don "That Announcer Guy" LaFontaine. "Close the lights, pour the wine, lose the pants, I'm genuine. Everybody party, party hard, all aboard riding a train covered in cum, pulled by her caboose, she knows her way around a cock, as good at sunrise as she was at 9 o' clock." As silly as it sounds, it has some serious connotation, as it ends with an woman speaking in Italian that is translated to "These are only episodes, a person can't be marked by a single moment. Respect me in the same way in which you should respect a person that has lived a complete and difficult life."
"Kittypants," which is named after one of Albini's cats that hangs around his studio, is a lighthearted instrumental. "Boycott" reminds me of "Wingwalker" off their Uranus EP. "Paco," a heavy, and dark instrumental, leads you into the closer "Spoke." As Albini says, "Play the drum" Trainer's relentless drumming drives it home in classic punk-rock fashion: short, simple, and to the point. Weston, and Albini shout, and scream gibberish back in forth seeming to poke fun at clichÃ© screaming in music, all while being beaten by heavy rockage. The song is all too short, and you'll find yourself clicking repeat, or lifting the needle, whichever format you choose.
The artwork features a slipcover designed by Jay Ryan, the cover art is Trainer's Italian Greyhound "Uffizi" surrounded by fruits, and vegetables. The vinyl comes in a gatefold cover, with the CD, that happens to be blank, maybe implying it is free for you to title like a CD-R would be, engraved in the mirror band on each side is "Made in Canada by Americ Disc." The artwork is absolutely stunning though, and is something that appears to be thought out, just as much as this record.
Excellent Italian Greyhound is fun and seems to capture a bit of what Shellac fans have come to love from their live performances. It's full of little inside jokes and some funny clichÃ©s. The "dun dun" endings at the end of each song will give anyone laugh. This just may be their best album to date.