All good things come in threes. And so the albums of Shellac – the third one is a good thing. Since 1994, when the band was formed by Steve Albini with bassist Tom Weston and drummer Todd Trainer, “1000 Hurts” is the third album confirming the status of Shellac as an original, purposefully mean-spirited band.
Albini, as some sort of an underground God, his band and their album did not need any promotion on the radio or TV, there were no interviews, no free copies for the press. 1000 Hurts is Shellac’s third and by far best album, which again and again let us enjoy Albini’s guitar pirouettes and his lunatic screaming voice, Trainer’s beating the hell out of his drums, and Weston’s unmatched bass tone.
In this album one will find a number of new elements which were not heard from Shellac yet: the radio in “QRT”, Todd’s singing in “New Number One” or “Guitarsolo” in “Canaveral”. But as Steve Albini says: these all this new stuff was not planned, but this is something they just came up with accidentally. May be it is hard to believe that the two monsters of the music producing (Albini and Weston) did not plan anything to make this album really good in terms of commercial success of the album. But these guys do it for fun.
What also makes this album different is the quality of the songwriting. It’s not a case of clinging to the verse chorus verse structure so much as an adherence to melody. “Song Against Itself” employs Shellac’s trademark meaty riffage, but it also incorporates its most melodic vocals yet. The riffs seem even more memorable this time- to the point where you would possibly hum them later. It is impossible to hum their older songs like “Doris” or “House Full Of Garbage”.
The songwriting has polarized from the easily accessible rock and roll The songs on this album switch gears from straightforward 4/4 time rock to bizarre arrangements/time changes more quickly and at greater extremes than their past releases. To make the contrast even more blatant, the straightforward parts are very straightforward, and the crazy parts are even more crazy.
The emotional content of lyrics has remained the same, just like Albini himself: mean and sarcastic. “Prayer To God” is an hysterical plea, in which Albini asks “the one true God above” to kill two people for him. The tone of his prayer is dripping with sarcasm but the point is simple enough: “her, she can go quietly by disease or a blow/to the base of her neck where her necklaces close/where her garments come together/where I used to lay my face/that’s where you ought to kill her/in that particular place.”
The music rises to meet his anger. “Squirrel Song” is a “sad fucking song” that showcases Shellac’s incredible rhythmic precision. “Song Against Itself” starts out sounding almost as straightforward as pop punk, while “Mama Gina” starts with a dissonant melody being played over a slow rhythm section which then fades out to bass pulses and guitar beeps with Steve singing/talking about a woman who likes to dance.
Shellac hasn’t lost an ounce of its brutality. Pounding rhythms, sharp but sparse guitars, and repetitive bass lines bust through the speakers with exquisite production. The songs and recording on 1000 Hurts don’t deviate from the sound of their other releases so much as to shock the listener. The disk doesn’t really break any new ground – like its predecessors, it’s a collection of angular guitar lines, hypnotically repetitive rhythms, oddball time signatures, noise-rock squalls and twisted lyrics.
Frankly, it’s just nice to hear a record that you know was written without even the slightest thought for commercial potential, marketing or playlists. 1000 Hurts shows Shellac in prime form who seems to have realized that 12-minute rock songs don’t rock. This record’s longest track, “Mama Gina,” clocks in at an appropriate 5:44, long enough to fully flesh out the song, but not so long that the groove gets tired.