Archive for the Big Black Category

Arsenal – Factory Smog Is A Sign Of Progress (Touch and Go) 1990

Posted in Arsenal, Big Black, Music with tags , , , on August 29, 2012 by noisenoisenoise

I bet you are thinking to yourself, “why on earth do I need to read a review about some late 1980’s hardcore band that no-one remembers of even cares about”.  Well the reason that I wanted to draw this to your attention is that Arsenal was the final pre-law school  band of Santiago Durango,  the bass player for Naked Raygun and most importantly Big Black.  When Albini folded Big Black and then went on to his finest hour in the terrifyingly great  Rapeman, Durango moved on to Arsenal which he may have been the only member of (I stand to be corrected – info is limited). Now at the time that Durango was releasing the mighty Manipulator EP on Blast First, Albini was creating all sorts of fuss with Rapeman to the point that his much protested tour of the UK ended in the band breaking up. I suspect that Arsenal kind of got  starved of oxygen at the time. Durango then went on to release the Factory Smog Is a Sign Of Progress EP on Touch and Go and then ceased to exist. The CD of Factory ….. that I tracked down on amazon also includes the Manipulator EP. The only other place Arsenal every appeared was on the famous Devils Jukebox 10 x 7inch single boxset that Blast First put out in the late 1980’s. The  single fro that compilation, Little Hitlers, appears on Manipulator.

So there you have it –  a career of nine released tracks all contained on an out of print but easily available  CD.  The music itself mines a much more straight forward hardcore path.  The chilling obliqueness of Big Black is set to one side  for a more music friendly approach. It is still a ferocious record (particularly the four tracks that make up the Manipulator EP) and the reason I  recommend it is that it is absolutely soaked with “that” bass sound. If you have spent any time with Big Black you will know what I mean.  If  I was to nerd-out and create my late 1980’s hardcore supergroup then the role of bass player would have been given to Durango. His playing is easily identifiable and, well, it makes me very happy hearing it again outside of the context of Big Black.  If you have any interest in mid-western hardcore from this period then Arsenal is worthwhile hearing. It is a bit of a lost gem quite frankly.

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Shellac – 1000 Hurts (Touch & Go) 2000

Posted in Albini, Big Black, Music, Rapeman on September 19, 2009 by noisenoisenoise

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Albini has been releasing albums as Shellac for 15 years. Not exactly a prolific band, 1000 Hurts was their third record on Touch & Go before entering a lengthy hiatus. There is a lot here to love. I read somewhere that  the basis of Albini’s take on rock music is an amalgam of mid-Western hardcore and british post punk. That description is a bit simplistic but OK as a starting point. 1000 Hurts begins with the almighty Prayer to God which may be on the more unsettling songs he’s ever written. Basically a plea to God to kill his girlfriend (gently) and her new lover (as messily as possible) it is a prefect  blend of the sick, black  humour that has defined much of Albini’s work since his Big Black days. The second track Squirrel Song is my favorite thing here. Again Albini shows he doesn’t take himself too seriously, yet both tracks showcase Albini’s lacerating guitar and the pummeling driving bass and drums which define their sound. But after those two tracks things start becoming a bit stranger. Mama Gina has it’s moments but it drags down the momentum and certainly not my favourite thing here. In fact the tracks are all over the place. Those looking for the consistency of the  records he released as part of Rapeman or Big Black will have a tougher time with Shellac. Christ he even attempts to sing on Ghosts. Yet this is one of the great things about Shellac , you’re never sure what your going to get from one album to the next and although there are heaps of similarities between all of Albini’s work, Shellac produce a much more consistently rock record. Take the sixth  track Song Against Itself, as soon as I played it I started thinking of a pop infused Minutemen via Jesus Lizard.  It’s great even if it doesn’t feature Albini’s vocals. By track seven Albini returns to his favourite persona as a vengeful husband/boyfriend. On Canaveral he suggests shooting the fellow  who “put his dick in my wife” into space where he would then explode to create fertilizer in China. All in all this is a great rock record to get your teeth into. Some might complain that as an album it’s a bit inconsistent, but I reckon that’s part of it’s charm.

Big Black – The Rich Man’s Eight Track (Blast First) 1987

Posted in Albini, Big Black, Music with tags , , on July 12, 2009 by noisenoisenoise

Big Black

This is the best hardcore punk album ever made. How do I know? Well just listen to it. Do you hear that? The beastial menace of Albini was never bettered. By anyone. This is the best record that Albini produced because this is a compilation which includes the Atomizer record, The Heartbeat 7inch single and the Heartbeat four track EP (with Kraftwerk cover!!) . Back in the day I owned all three of them on beautiful vinyl. Oh how I loved  those records but in my well documented brainsnap I offloaded them. They were beautiful and if you ever see them for sale just buy them because hardcore always sounded better on vinyl but if, like me, the vinyl era has been left far behind, this CD will have to do. The thing about Big Black, and this goes for their Songs About Fucking record as well, is that they survived on sheer bubbling agression. Take for instance  the opener here, Jordan Minnesota. The thing kicks off with that infernal drum machine and the razor blade slashing of Albini’s guitar and the sledgehammer fuck bass of Weston is unrelenting, and once you get used to that, you may think to yourself, “Hey,when these guys go off it’s going to obliterate rock music for ever”. But the smart thing is that they never really do.  They get close, very very close. But they are cockteasers. But then you realise that it is that control, that end of the world tantric fuckery, that did destroy rock music and that is why you need to buy this.

Rapeman – Two Nuns and a Packmule (1988) Blast First

Posted in Albini, Big Black, Music, Rapeman with tags on July 30, 2008 by noisenoisenoise

This may in fact be the  best hardcore/alt-rock/punk record that came out in the late 1980’s. Rapeman were a supergroup of sorts founded by Steve Albini after the implosion of Big Black. Albini chose to  name his new venture after  a rather charming Japanese comic book in which the protaganist would you know what the villians. Frightful premise and bless his cotton socks, Albini, despite all the controversy the band name generated during their short life span, certainly defended his choice of name at the time. The controversy was played out every week in the NME during their short UK tour in 1989. In fact Blast First’s pressing plant employees refused to handle the record in  protest of their name. The band were picketted throughout their tour and they eventually broke after releasing their one and only album. I sold my rather snappy vinyl copy of this many years ago and my mate Doc brought this back from the States with him in the late 1990’s. The great thing about the CD version is the inclusion of the  amazing Budd E.P. which arguably is Rapeman’s finest moment.

I remember first hearing Rapeman on my 17th birthday. In the redneck bullshit town I grew up in there was one sparsely stocked import record store. It mainly stocked all of the Australian underground stuff coming out on Citadel, Au Go Go and Red Eye but it also had it’s fair share of Blast First and SST releases. To be honest I’d never heard any of the stuff but used to go in every Friday night and paw over these records I had little chance of hearing. My mates (probably sick of having to go into that shop with me) took me inthere on my birthday and bought me Budd. I think it was the first time I realised that music could have  so much power and be almost completely devoid of a tune. I flogged that EP to death before finally ordering a copy of Two Nuns and a Packmule. 

The one thing about Two Nuns and a Packmule is that despite the dodgy titles of the songs Albini liberally takes the piss out of himself. On one track he threatens violence before realising that he is a nerdy geek who is going to get flattened should he go through with his threat. Rapeman certainly  generate a big fucking noise and I’ve always preferred Two Nuns and a Packmule to most of the stuff Albini did with Big Black. I don’t doubt that had they chosen a safer name it certainly would have been heard by far more people. It’s a shame that more people haven’t heard this, but if you have any interest in the Touch and Go/Chicago hardcore scene of the late 1980’s this has to be a definite add to your collection.

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