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Shellac - Excellent Italian Greyhound

Whoa new Shellac! You just gotta admire Shellac. A full seven years since their last studio album 1000 Hurts, the trio of Steve Albini, Todd Trainer and Bob Weston release their 4th album for no other reason that they could, having being able to wrestle time away from their days jobs as studio engineers. There's no supporting tour, no singles to draw you in, and no fanfare surrounding its release. In fact I knew nothing of it till spotting on the shelves of Monorail one Sunday afternoon. That makes this one of the most pointless reviews to appear here. I guess with Shellac you either get 'em or you don't. I swear by Shellac, they're like a longtime friend whom you don't see often. It may be years between visits but they are always familiar and most welcome. And that pretty much describes Excellent Italian Greyhound. There's no tectonic shift in musical development or sound. If anything they've fine tuned their sound so much that it's now as tight as... well y'know, something really tight. There's little adornment just straight forward no-nonsense rock. Albini's guitar remains as abrasive as ever, Weston bass lines are taut, and Trainer's drums are just immaculate. 'Steady As She Goes', 'Be Prepared' and 'Elephant' are solid enough and pretty much business as usual exacting the usual stop-start structures, dropping instruments out the mix for Trainer's drum to take centre stage before the trio recovene with a high-powered cohesiveness.

The main tracks here are 'The End of Radio' and 'Genuine Lulabelle'. 'The End of Radio' kicks off the album with some drum rolls as Albini asks "Is this thing on? Can you hear me?". Repeated riffs are unleashed, as Trainer wrestles with his drumkit. Albini takes the role of a radio presenter but there's no-one listening. This is post-apocalyptic broadcasting, and it's a smart piece of work. Albini, cynically, seeks that non-existent caller, special girl, sponsor but there's no-one there. "Is it really broadcasting if there's no-one there to receive?" he questions as the trio launch into tight jagged structures. Meanwhile 'Genuine Lulabelle' is a looser conception of raucous guitars breaking down into plundering basslines, then rolling drums before it all stops and Albini kicks with a filthy acapella monologue. It's a bizarrely infuriating track. Excellent Italian Greyhound isn't all serated bluster though. 'Kittypants' is a brief melodic instrumental that's as accessible as anything they've ever done. The other instrumental track here, 'Paco', is a powerful run through some ass-kickin' structures. Excellent Italian Greyhound ends on the manic thrash of 'Boycott' with some cartoon vocals from Albini and Weston. Its not one of their finer moments. But it's strange that the most discomforting track, 'Genuine Lulabelle' is also the quietest with the greatest use of space and silence. All the same, for all the minor quibbles the first side really hits the spot. Strange packaging though. For more information go to