Über-producer, general pain in the ass, and guitarist-engineer Steve Albini has a keen ear for abrasive sounds. During the mid-'80s, before his work with Nirvana, Bush, and PJ Harvey (and countless others) turned him into a minor celebrity among alternative-rock fans smart enough to read their liner notes, he was damaging eardrums with Big Black (and later Rapeman). With Shellac, which Albini formed in 1994, with bassist Tom Weston and drummer Todd Trainer, he's been more tame -- so much so that the last Shellac album, 1998'sTerraform
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, was littered with too many droning intros and attempts at melodic interludes. That's the last thing anyone wants to hear from the man who gave the world an album calledSongs About Fucking
1000 Hurts, an album that's the equivalent of a sonic sledgehammer and combines Fugazi's precise delivery with the Jesus Lizard's primal rage, gets back to the belligerent basics. "To the one true God above, here is my prayer / Not the first you've heard, but the first I've wrote," Albini sneers. He then articulates his wish that an acquaintance should die violently. "Fucking kill him" he barks, as lacerating guitars and pummeling drums resound with viciousness. "Squirrel Song," which begins with Albini yelling, "This is a sad fucking song / You'll be lucky if I don't bust out crying," is just as powerful, as Weston overloads it with thick, menacing riffs. The album has its share of songs that take too long to develop, but for the most part, Shellac confirms its status as an original, purposely mean-spirited band that's brutal but that doesn't have to thump its chest or rap to get the point across.