It seems that everything that Steve Albini touches becomes magic and that definitely includes his band Shellac. It’s basically been Albini non-stop, because I’m still enjoying A New Nature, the gorgeous album released by the English trio Esben and the Witch who recruited the genius of Albini for its production.
Shellac, the stellar “minimalist rock trio”, as they define themselves, just released Dude Incredible, their first album since 2007’s Excellent Italian Greyhound. Dude Incredible was recorded over the last few years at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. The press release notes, “There is no comma in Dude Incredible; like Sir Duke or King Friday , for example.” it seems also that the band won’t be touring to support the record since, as they say, “there is no correlation between shows and record releases .”
As soon as I found this record in my dropbox I spent an entire night listening to it and I came out to the conclusion not only that Dude Incredible is their best work yet, but also that the trio from Chicago are one of the finest rock bands of in current music scene. The nine songs that compose Dude Incredible are just perfect and their dynamism is contagious.
Albini, the infamous record engineer (guitar , vocals), together with bassist Bob Weston and the rim-shotter Todd Trainer have delivered an album that sounds surprisingly vital. The riffing of Weston is controlled and precise, Trainer’s rhythms are unstoppable, and Albini’s guitar is extremely interesting. Shellac all together create an usual structure made of build up and payoff, creating a dynamic and engaging sound.
The title track opens up Dude Incredible and it’s a great start. They manage to be alive, deep, and sexy in the same time: the bleak and angry world of Shellac is back in full force. “Dude Incredible” is all about the group dynamics and the outcome is a track with a continuous change and pursuit of rhythm.There’s a change with following track, the compulsive “Compliant,” a song that explains how hard it is to get through the day for someone who is suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. I love the pauses of this song and the complex levels of sounds in it. It’s like the results of two/three songs overlapped. Shellac is definitely back. The following track “You Came in Me” is a song about sex and, hey, have you ever heard a record from Albini without a song about fucking?
Riding bikes with your friends is not only the act of riding a bike but involves a certain degree of intimacy with each other: this is the central theme of “Riding Bikes” with it’s riffing that’s among their finest guitar work to date. The same riffing is on the stage of “The People’s Microphone” an instrumental song. The other instrumental track of the album is “Mayor/Surveyor” and is based on a little guitar riff and when Shellac goes instrumental you notice how well integrated the trio is. There’s a magical collaboration between the three musicians that you can’t understand when the music of one member starts and when the sound of the other one ends. It’s a sonic symbiosis that won’t leave you.
The snappy “Surveyor” finishes off the album. This final song talks about the Founding Fathers of the United States as surveyors and leads the listeners to think about the modern times and the necessary tools we are missing to become a better society. Dude Incredible ends here and there’s no doubt that this is one of the best releases of the year. It’s variety makes you think that there’s a song within each song and even if they are diverse, they are perfectly integrated and all together compose a shining diamond. Sonically, Shellac’s Dude Incredible is captivating from start to finish.
Abrasive, arty, nasty, and sometimes noisy , Dude Incredible is simultaneously interesting, difficult, catchy and fun.