Archive for the ‘Steve Albini’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RAPEMAN-“Steak and Black Onions” (1988).

Rapeman was a project by Steve Albini named after a Japanese graphic novel character.  They put out one LP and one EP and were protested everywhere they went.

I wasn’t intending to use this song for this story.  As I was finishing this post I read that Carlson was accused of the sexual assault of a minor.  I didn’t want to associate the musician I initially had on this post (who I loved) with this asshat.

So, I am tying him to Rapeman.

Whether the band name is inherently good or bad is not the point.  I wanted something appropriate for the author.  If only the song had been called “T-Bone Steak and Potatoes.”

But then there’s the music, which is really good.  This song, as with most things Albini plays on, is full of sharp, piercing guitar stabs and ricocheting feedback.

The lyrics are pure meat-eating aggro:

Why don’t you snuff it, then?
You plant-eating pussy

Well I know that you wanna tell me what I’m…
What I’m eating, ah yeah
Shut your mouth, shut your mouth
Shut your mouth
I know what I want and I don’t like onions

And yet it’s surprisingly catchy–catchier than his work with say Big Black, anyway.

It is hard to listen to a band called Rapeman, which is a shame since the sounds that Albini generates are so extraordinary.

[READ: April 16, 2019] “At the Jim Bridger” 

I was reluctant to read this story because the title is so puzzling.  And then, as I read it, I was reluctant to finish it because I assumed i knew where it was going and didn’t want to read a story about homophobia.  But I read it all and it surprised me.

The man is named Donner (which seems too easy) he and a woman (not his wife, as the story keeps pointing out) have just pulled into the parking lot of the Jim Bridger Lodge.  He’d been talking about a steak and a cocktail at the Jim Bridger for days.  He talked a lot–more than anyone she’d ever met.  And his stories seemed so poetic.

He had taken the woman on his annual week long hike in the woods.  There was much talk and much sex and he had left beers in the river for when they returned and they were the best she’d ever had. (more…)

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walrus marchSOUNDTRACK: GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR!-Yanqui U.X.O. [CST024] (2002).

GybeyanquiuxoYanqui UXO is a single CD/double vinyl release coming in at about 80 minutes.  The lineup stayed the same, but there were a few changes.  First the band’s exclamation point moved from the end to after the “You.”  And second, this album was produced by Steve Albini.  Albini seems like an odd choice given his stripped down style and often brutal recording sound.  The album still sounds a lot like GYBE, but they have stripped out all of the field recordings and interstitial parts making a much smoother album.

The recording was described by the band as “just raw, angry, dissonant, epic instrumental rock.”  It’s hard to argue with that.

There are four or five songs on the record depending on if you have the LP or CD.  The first two songs “09-15-00, Part 1” and “09-15-00, Part 2” are merged into one on the LP.  “Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls.”  And then “Motherfucker=Redeemer, Part 1” and “Motherfucker=Redeemer, Part 2” (the LP removes the “parts” from the title, and just has the song “continued” on side 4—it’s also 5 minutes longer on the LP, primarily from ambient sounds that begin the song.  The LP also contains a hidden track called  “George Bush Cut Up While Talking.”

“09-15-00, Part 1” is 16 minutes long.  It opens slowly with what sounds like a harpsichord playing a rhythm while an echoed guitar plays a slow melody.  More instruments are slowly added as the song grows more intense.  At around 4 and half minutes a new melody enters from the bass.  It is complex but doesn’t alter the general tone of the song.  The song goes almost entirely silent at 6 and a half minutes, but a new melody starts—soft one note strings start as guitars creep into the sound.  Then a violin begins a melody that the guitar soon echoes.  The full band plays along with this melody at around 9 minutes and it gets more intense as the drums pick up speed.  This all drops away once more except for a martial beat and a bass line.  A guitar plays a melody over this simple section and then it builds and builds until the last few violin notes squeak out.

“09-15-00, Part 2” is six minutes long and is probably the simplest and most beautiful piece they have recorded.  There’s no build up, no drama, it’s just a pretty song full of strings and guitars.

“Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls” opens with a simple three note guitar melody and violins playing over the top.  The strings get bigger and more prominent and the rest of the band starts filling in.  Around three and half minutes in, the song gets really raucous…until it settles down again.  The song builds again, with the violins taking prominence.  At about seven-minutes, the song changes drastically with a lengthy descending series of notes (on horns) leading to a spare drum beat which lasts over a minute before the horns come back in.  After a minute or so of solitary horn notes, some guitars start playing in the background.  By around 13 minutes ominous chords have developed, overshadowing nearly everything else—and that steady drumbeat certainly causes some tension.  By 16:30 the tension has been released and the chords are welcoming and bright.  The song seems like it ends around nineteen minutes in, but there’s a gentle string section coda tacked on at the end.

“Motherfucker=Redeemer, Part 1” opens with gentle ringing sounds like a child’s toy.  After about 2 minutes, guitars start coming in—one playing staccato notes another playing chords and a bass playing as simple pattern.  At 3 and a half minutes the main riff comes it.  It is played on the violin and has vaguely Jewish feel to it.  There aren’t a ton of changes in this song, which more or less just builds around the same riff.  By 7 minutes there’s a soaring violin solo which screams over the top of the song.  There are moments when the song gets louder and quieter but it definitely feels like all one song until about 10 minutes when it more or less slows to a halt.  There’s some slow violin sounds an a simple guitar.  This second part of the song is similar to the first in that it is a regular guitar riff playing as the rest of the band fills in around it.  At around 13 minutes, a bigger fuzzier guitar takes over the riff.  The song continues in various forms until the end, when it is just a bass line.

“Part 2” is only ten minutes long (15 on vinyl).  It opens with the strings providing washes of music.  A new, fairly complex bassline opens the song.  The band builds the track with fast drumming and louder and louder strings.  It shifts tone at around 4 minutes.  And for the next 3 minutes it gets more intense until it seems to fade out, introducing a new guitar riff that works almost like a coda to the whole thing.  The drums are insane for this ending part and the band seems like they are just going nuts as the song comes crashing to an end.  The extra five minutes on vinyl come at the beginning of the song.  It starts with voices singing some basic “ahhhs” and then a guitar playing a ringing note.  It does add to the tension that builds up before the music begins properly and really should be checked out if you’ve only heard the CD version.

“George Bush Cut Up While Talking” is 3 minutes of a George Bush address cut up (it sounds like it is a skipping CD) interspersed with clapping that sounds like static and a voice saying “it is the predominant question, why am I here and what can I do to make it better how can I do what is right.”  (There’s a disconcerting video of this here.)

I think this album is really fantastic.  And while I enjoy their found sounds, I prefer that they’re just playing music.

After making this album the band would go on hiatus for…ten years.  Here’s the line up for Yanqui.

  • Thierry Amar – bass guitar
  • David Bryant – electric guitar
  • Bruce Cawdron – drums
  • Aidan Girt – drums
  • Norsola Johnson – cello
  • Efrim Menuck – guitar
  • Mauro Pezzente – bass guitar
  • Roger Tellier-Craig – guitar [replaced Mike Moya]
  • Sophie Trudeau – violin

[READ: April 11, 2016] “”Where the Yazoo Cross the Yellow Dog””

This is an except from a story about Jimbo and Rob.  The opening details Jimbo’s (James) parents, which I rather enjoyed.  Particularly the details about his father–his daily “three and three-quarter minute boiled egg served in a brightly coloured egg cup” and this statement:

‘I view hot toast,’ he said in one of his rare communications, pointing to the solitary Hovie slice lodged cold in the silver toast rack, ‘as offensively American.’

I also loved the dogmatic qualities of his father

‘What?’ said the Major.  ‘What?”
Which was his usual response top any reply short of complete agreement or grovelling.


“Don’t say ‘haven’t got,'” said the Major.  “It is both redundant and ill-bred.  ‘Haven’t’ will suffice.”

But the story is really about Jimbo and his friend Rob Forde (that cannot be a coincidence).  Jimbo was a teenager affecting sophistication (he wanted a smoking jacket) and he and Rob looked through junk shops for cigarette cases and art books. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 7, 2016] Gogol Bordello

2016-04-07 22.47.46It was two years ago that I saw Gogol Bordello and I put them on my list of bands to see again–their live show was that much fun.  So they played two nights at Union Transfer.  I chose the first night (Thursday rather than Friday) although I’m not exactly sure why.  I think it turned out to be the right choice because Friday night’s show sold out and if my show was intense, I can’t imagine what a sold out show is like.

This show was part of their tenth anniversary tour.  Not ten years since the band formed, but ten years since their first big album, Gypsy Punks (which was recorded by Steve Albini!).  And their plan was to play that entire album, and some other songs.  I only found out about this entire album thing a few days ago.  It turns out that it’s the GB album I don’t own (I don’t own their earlier ones either), so I had to quickly scramble to see what songs were on it.  Well, it turns out that most of those songs have been played live or appeared elsewhere, so I knew a pretty good amount of them.  Phew.

They came out to roars from the crowd and they launched right into the lead off track from the album.  “Sally” features some intense screaming from one of the women in the band, and one of the women came out and supplied it for the song.  And I knew that this set was going to be a lot of fun. (more…)

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balfourSOUNDTRACK: SLINT-Spiderland (Remastered) (1991/2014).

slint2Slint is an overlooked band except by those who think they are really super important.  Slint played what would eventually be called post-rock before people called it that–they had spoken vocals and dark guitar, loud and quiet riffs and intense building sections (and on this album no songs under 5 minutes).  Some riffs were super catchy, indeed, many of the songs on Spiderland have super catchy sections, and yet there is something that resists you casually getting into them (probably those spoken lyrics).

I’ll even say that I tend to forget about them.  They get lumped in with other Steve Albini produced bands (Albini produced their first album, but not Spiderland, and since Albini’s band was Shellac, they are even close in the alphabet), but they don’t really sound like Albini’s output.  They’re much warmer and, dare I say ,emotional–the screamed vocals are incredibly passionate.  Plus, they only released one album before they broke up (this one was after the breakup), so their legacy is bigger than their output.

So I’m thrilled about this reissue if only so that it will give them a wider audience. And you can hear the entire two hour spectacle before it come out at NPR.

At the same time I didn’t notice a huge difference in the production.  It sounded great, but then I haven’t listened to it in a while so it’s hard to compare.  The deluxe package is a behemoth: the box comes with the album, outtakes and demos on 180 gram vinyl and on CD. It also includes a 104-page book with never-before-seen photos, lyrics, and a foreword by Will Oldham and Breadcrumb Trail, a 90-minute documentary about the making of Spiderland with interviews with the band, James Murphy, Steve Albini, David Yow, Ian MacKaye, Matt Sweeney and others.  Since it retails at about $150, I won’t be buying that.

slintI did listen to the whole thing and again was reminded of how great the album is.  The bonus material is, well, a little disappointing.  You get three more early versions of “Nosferatu Man,” one of which is an instrumental.  Two demo versions of “Washer” and “Good Morning, Captain” (one is an instrumental kind of goof).  There’s three versions of a song called “Pam” which didn’t make Spiderland, so that’s interesting.  Then there’s another outtake called “Glenn” and two post Spiderland songs called “Todd’s Song” and “Brian’s Song.”  They’re all good, but are in various stages of construction.

Perhaps the most interesting bonus track is the live (from Chicago 1989) version of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer.”  But I have to admit that vocally, they just can’t handle it.  The music sounds good, but the singer just never seems to be in tune, but nor is he talking it either.  It was a little disappointing (especially compared to Built to Spill’s live cover).

So if you are a die hard fan of this unheralded band, this is a worthy addition (especially for the book and movie).  Otherwise, enjoy the original, it’s a great album.

[READ: April 7, 2014] Balfour and Meriwether in The Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs

I was immediately attracted to the cover of this novella–two men in bowler hats and button down shirts wielding weapons in front of a spooky background.  What’s not to like?  Especially when the book is tiny (80 pages).  I grabbed it and brought it home to read.

That’s when I learned that Balfour and Meriwether appear in other books and that this was “the first novella-length work” about the pair.  Did that mean that there was a lengthy series and this is the first short piece about them?  Indeed, no.  There are two other stories about them which are both shorter (these first two stories have been collected in one book).  And according to Abraham, he has no plans to write more, but that doesn’t mean he won’t.

So this is a fun and surreal adventure story set in England in the 1880s.  It is taken from Meriwether’s Diary (written in 1920).  Meriwether acknowledges that God the Creator has made many beautiful things but He has also made some abominations that walk the Earth.

And that leads us into this story of subterranean creatures and British political dealings with them. (more…)

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