Release Date: Jun 5, 2007
Record label: Touch & Go
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Unlike most celebrated independent bands, the three members of Shellac have made it clear they have no desire to turn the band into a full-time job and accept the attendant financial and professional compromises that would come with that, so while the seven-year wait between Shellac's third album, 1000 Hurts, and 2007's Excellent Italian Greyhound may have seemed interminable to their fans, for Shellac it was doubtless seen as business as usual, simply waiting until they had material they liked and the time seemed right before presenting it to the public. And on the surface, Excellent Italian Greyhound does sound like a typical Shellac record -- Steve Albini's guitar still slices like a freshly sharpened hedge-trimmer, Bob Weston's slabs of bass continue to give the songs a strong melodic mooring, and Todd Trainer's drumming strikes a balance between rhythmic precision and free exploration the way he always has. But the difference this time out is that Shellac have grown stronger, more intuitive, and simply better during their seven-year recording break, and Excellent Italian Greyhound is the most satisfying album they've made since their debut, 1994's At Action Park.
In 2007, Steve Albini cannot shout "this microphone turns sound into electricity!" without a long backlog of contingent ironies. He may well do it in the guise of, say, the last radio DJ on earth, with a cadence somewhere between naive disbelief and millenarian desperation, but we already know too much about him — his lifelong devotion to reverb, his affinity for aluminum guitars and copper plectra, his prickliness regarding the producer-engineer distinction, perhaps even the name of his recording studio — to put much trust in any other narrator he can throw at us. Surely he knows this better than anyone, though, and this is in large part how Shellac's fourth album (fifth if you count The Futurist) works.