Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Shellac – “This is a Picture” from Terraform (1998 Touch and Go Records)


In the 1990s when my friends and I got into Shellac, nobody was talking about Big Black, Electrical Audio, or their opinions about producdtion on Nirvana or Pixies albums. Those conversations came later, but at the time, it was just about (and pardon me for being a bit trite) the music.

Years later, I think that’s probably the best way to enjoy a band, and maybe I say that because I still haven’t gotten into Big Black, but Shellac, Shellac is something special. Giants of indie rock, even. At that time, if memory serves, the term we were bandying about was “math rock,” bookending our Shellac listening with June of 44 records and the like. But there is only one Shellac, and if this is your introduction to the band, some quick YouTubing should reveal as much in short order.

Some further Googling will reveal the varied careers of the three men who make up the band. What’s great about them is that they are, at their core, very regular guys doing pretty fantastic things. This point was driven home for me when I lived in Chicago and was in a food buying co-op with Bob Weston, among others. Bob was warm and normal and had a fierce disdain for Lakewood Organics cranberry juice.

“This is a Picture” is full of all kinds of pent-up energy and guitars like razors, and lyrics that are pretty existential and weird. There are moments on Terraform that are plodding and feel somewhat self-indulgent, but here the band starts strong, slows things up to explore the nuances of tone that their uniquely built instruments provide, and then build back up to a solid indie rocker, all within two and a half minutes.

So let’s forget, for a moment, Steve Albini’s legendary collection of pornography and how ill it makes us all feel (started to Google for links, got skeezed out), and focus instead on turning up the stereo while reading his culinary weblog, Mario Batali Voice.