Words About Music
Shellac “Dude Incredible”
Shellac is one of the very best bands to ever be associated with the post-hardcore genre. Their uncompromising pseudo-math-rock riffs, twisted lyrics, and impeccable production have turned them into something of a cult band. The trio has been together for over 20 years but has only released five albums of material. But Shellac is the kind of band that does things how they want when they want, and all five of those albums have ranged from great to amazing. The group is led by noise-rock extraordinaire and notorious music producer Steve Albini. You may know him from his short-lived but influential ’80s trio Big Black, or perhaps his even shorter-lived Rapeman. You may know him for his production discography, which includes Nirvana’s “In Utero,” Slint’s “Tweez,” Pixies’ “Surfer Rosa,” Cloud Nothings’ “Attack on Memory,” and many many many more amazing records. But Shellac remains his one unchanging project. Shellac rarely tweaks its sound. The three musicians mostly rely on ambitious lyricism and emotive delivery, but all of these elements come together time and time again to make records that sound timeless and awesome.
“Dude Incredible” is pretty much exactly what a Shellac fan would want and expect from the band. Bold riffs, loud drums, provocative lyrics, and delving into the deep psychological explanations behind what makes humanity tick. Well, maybe not quite explanations and more like demonstrations. For example, the lyrics to “Compliant” read like the thoughts of a person with OCD. And not “oh, I like things to be clean, I’m so OCD about it.” This song deals with real “gotta check the locks on my door 12 times before I can go to sleep” OCD. The eponymous opening track seems to equate natural selection and animal mating to a group of bros who hit the town looking for women to sleep with. Even when the lyrics don’t quite make sense, there seems to be a dark and philosophical truth to what the band are saying. I honestly have no idea what the lyrics to “You Came in Me” are trying to convey, but I can assure you that they disturb me.
The most important part, though, is Steve Albini’s distinguished Shellac persona. He’s a guy who’s smarter and hornier than you and he knows it. “Dude Incredible” deals with primal and sexual urges more than anything. There’s plenty of frightening sexual undertones all throughout the album. I almost feel like Albini is trying to threaten me. Listening to Shellac can be weird for first-timers and this album certainly doesn’t try to make anyone feel comfortable. Whether he’s talking, cawing like a crow, shouting, or snarling, Albini is not ignorable. It’s the perfect blend of minimalism that makes sure no element goes unnoticed. The bass, guitar, drums, and vocals are all perfectly clear and you’ve got nothing to do but to succumb to the craziness.
While I wish “Dude Incredible” was longer and I do think that the second half doesn’t quite stand up to the first, I do agree that the seven-year wait for more recorded music from Shellac was completely worth it. And I will opine that I think this album is better than 2007’s “Excellent Italian Greyhound.” This album is Shellac at their most Shellac-y. It sounds like the sexually frustrated computer geeks who didn’t get laid in high school just graduated college and they’re even angrier than before. It’s a charged record that is bound to wage psychological warfare on anyone who dares listen. It’s not quite the noise assault that Big Black and The Jesus Lizard and Butthole Surfers can be, but the beauty in Shellac lies in the details. There’s a lot to this equation, though I can’t say for certain that the particular equation is “you times son-of-a-bitch squared.”
SCORE – 8.4
FAVORITE TRACKS – Dude Incredible, Compliant, You Came in Me, Riding Bikes, All the Surveyors, The People’s Microphone, Gary