Album Review: Shellac – Dude Incredible

The word ‘Dude’ is the pop-punk of personal nouns. Born from anti-establishment origins, with only a pure, if naive, heart, and slowly turned into a common indicator, if not trophy, of douchebags. Whereas in the 1980’s and 90’s, the words ‘Dude’ and ‘Pop Punk’ were still creative honours, being bestowed upon the greatest movie of all time (The Big Lebowski) and birthing some of the best bands (The Replacements, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, The Descendants), they soon got franchised into these dirty beings. Sure, the purity existed, but only in the most maligned of corners. Today, if you heard the word “Dude”, 9 times out of 10, it will be followed by a phrase like, “I totally finger banged some drunk chick last night”, as opposed to, “Check out this Husker Du cassette”.

But, without even the use of punctuation, Shellac have managed to reclaim one of my favourite words to use (besides “Fuck, and “Dipshit”) and make it incredible again. If Bill & Ted’s musical talents grew, but their vocabulary stayed the same, this is how they would describe this new Shellac record. This is hands down, one of the best records to have been released from any band this year.

For those uninformed about one of the most important bands to ever exist in an underground sense, Shellac are the All Tomorrow’s Parties poster boys, right next to Swans (cool!) and Nick Cave (cool?). They’re compromised of Steve Albini, Todd Trainer, and Bob Weston. Two of them are studio/recording engineers engineers, and together, they’ve featured as members of Big Black, Rapeman, Scoutt Niblett, The Volcano Suns and Mission of Burma. Weston and Albini have also worked on records by Sebadoh, The Pixies, Nirvana, Archers of Loaf, Cloud Nothings and The Jesus Lizard.

Now that you’ve been crushed by the weight of these accomplishments, go and listen to Shellac’s other recorded works. Especially ‘1000 Hurts’. That album is a work of goddamn art, and should be placed in a museum and Wu-Tang-ified. There’s something especially brutal and unique about Shellac’s work. Maybe it’s their complete lack of interest in worrying about commercial prospects (all members being fully employed). Maybe it’s the fact that all members have heavily contributed to the collective underground conscience in more ways than anyone else could hope to. Maybe it’s because the instruments on here sound like they’re trying to recall a parade of machine’s out of Mad Max colliding into each other in a black hole made out of evil. Who knows? All that’s obvious is that Shellac are incredible, dude.

Like the album cover, this record is pretty much a steroid. It’ll help you alleviate any anger left in your soul, turning you into a complete husk of a human, exhausted just from plugging into a single song. Shellac have narrowed themselves severely, trimmed down to a bare essential grit. Only two songs exceed four minutes, one being the title track which is a six minute rock opera that makes like John Wayne fronting Fugazi with a hurtling, demonic banshee cry. The trio have badassed their way into some kind of sound that grinds people’s faces off. It’s like walking into a revolving door of the  Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, each song propelling you into another nightmarish terror full of mutilated normality that’ll flay you alive.

On no other record have Shellac married their music and aggression more perfectly. They’ve always been one’s for creating the perfect atmosphere, but there’s always been room for improvement. Every note hits like a sledgehammer swung by a God, as cool as they have ever been. Each vocal, regardless of which member sings, is a searing rod to the ear canals. They are un-repressable, and completely without barriers. Songs like “Gary”, “All The Surveyors” and “You Came In Me” are sneering tour de forces, like a more cynical and organic Future of the Left.

For anyone that is bored shitless with the state of music, and needs something brutal and modern, look no further than ‘Dude Incredible’. This supernatural squirrel is a foreshadowing for your experience with this record – it will go all Bane-mad, lift you up and snap your back, then nurse you back to health in an environment of solitary confinement, wrapped in rich bass lines, brutal drum pounding and snarling vocals.

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