Sound — 9
After seven years of random live shows and continuing to work as a recording engineer for other bands, Steve Albini and Shellac return a little louder than on their previous effort, "Excellent Italian Greyhound." Where the last record had experimental elements and strange guest spots (internet goofball, Strongbad, and movie trailer voice-over actors), this latest one is trimmed and gut-punching heavy. The riffs are groovy and teeth-gnashing, the drums are pounded and compounded like hell, and the vocals holler in the mix of fuzz and steel. The opener (and longest of the album, 6 min) "Dude Incredible" goes in and out of intensity before a sequential build-up that arrives at a hypnotizing buzz of the intro riff: The transition is quick and uncanny as Albini preaches aloud. "Compliant" drones methodically on with a low bass riff until all bombast for a few screaming seconds. Bob Weston's bass is the foundation for most of these songs and "Riding Bikes" is no different; it even has some welcomed variation to the punk simplicity. The remaining songs are cool and ferocious a la Albini. "All the Surveyors" rolls and grooves confidently. "Gary" is a tad slower and somewhat of a departure from the rest of album, being a little sadder and bluesy (at least by Shellac standards).
Lyrics — 9
Steve Albini has described himself as a vocalist, not a singer. He testifies and howls like a fighter to the screeches of his guitar. These are some of Steve Albini's best lyrics. They're full of fury, sarcasm, and wit. Steve Albini is a bada-s and he cooly confides with his "brothers" and "comrades" on the title track. He embodies the dude incredible saying, "Let's leave this place directly and go where the females congregate," and then fight some strangers. The vocals on "Riding Bikes" is almost poetic, like he's rapping kinda. Albini lays down some haunting rhymes on this track: "times change, the strangest things become matters of contention / Some of the things we've had to do I'm not about to mention / I won't second guess something done with panic or the moment / I would bet it requires some thing like atonement / Then I ask her to inquire the answers of this town / Put your folks together, Ted, the sh-t is coming down / We're not riding bikes!" There's also a mild interest in the occupation of surveying land and math through out last songs, where he chants like its the middle ages and caws like a crow.
Overall Impression — 9
Shellac is back, but they never really went away either. You may have seen Albini present for the hoo-rah during the Nirvana "In Utero" 20 Anniversary reissue last year, but now he's returned with his own band to blow up rock n roll all over again. Shellac sounds tough, invigorated, and excited to face the musical landscape of today (or just scream and yell at it). There's nothing old, dead, or tired about this group. Their drummer's a pro. This release only heightens their reputation as true artists and uncompromising musicians.