Shellac
At Action Park


4.0
excellent

Review

by Andrew H. EMERITUS
April 24th, 2007 | 36 replies | 15,750 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Abrasive, arty, nasty, noisy, innovative and unique, Shellac are proof that there is still massive scope for experimentation and carving out new sounds with a standard guitar, bass, drums lineup in the indie-rock format.

If there's one thing that you can say about Steve Albini, it's that he's made a career out of being nasty. His work with his highly influential project Big Black, particularly their seminal album Songs About ***ing (the name says it all) was characterized by its abrasive sounds and dark, disturbing lyrical content. His second band, controversially named Rapeman was a noisy, abrasive project that featured members of Scratch Acid. As a producer, he was responsible for classic albums from, among others, the Pixies and Nirvana, In addition, he has produced records for everyone from Joanna Newsom to Zao, always with his signature analog rawness.

Given his history, anyone familiar with Steve Albini should know what to expect from Shellac. Take a quick glance over At Action Park's song titles and you'll quickly notice that it has Albini written all over it; titles like "My Black Ass" and "Boche's Dick" are just as uninviting as anything Albini has released in the past. On the other hand, there is definitely something much more mature about At Action Park than any of Albini's previous work. Although Shellac are about abrasive, noisy punk, and although Albini's dry production makes them seem extremely rough around the edges, there's also a sense that everything in their music is extremely precise, especially in the case of their strange rhythms and irregular time signatures. To put it more simply, Albini has taken the noisy mess of his previous work and streamlined it into a more mechanical, simple lineup. In addition, there's a dark sense of humour on display, whether it be in their lyrics, artwork or titles (most notably the early releases with such great titles as The Bird is the Most Popular Finger, Uranus and The Rude Gesture: a Pictorial History).

Sonically, At Action Park is extremely interesting, especially when it comes to Albini's guitar. Scratchy, metallic and sounding like nothing else, the riffs that Albini plays are the absolute epitome of abrasiveness. In terms of songs, At Action Park doesn't offer a lot of variation. This is, however, a blessing in a disguise, as Shellac's sound is extremely unique and having 35 minutes of the same thing, in this case, is not even slightly monotonous. Album opener "My Black Ass" features a nasty guitar riff played masterfully by Albini and backed by an extremely dense rhythm section courtesy of Todd Trainer and Bob Weston. The instrumental "Pull the Cup" is even more impressive, featuring a stop/start rhythm section and a brutal, horrible (in the best possible way), scratchy guitar tone. Elsewhere, "The Idea of North" provides some calm (by Albini standards, of course) to break up the noise and the album's closer showcases the band's sense of humour. Albini's production is signature; completely dry, vocals low in the mix and plenty of space between the instruments. And while there are plenty of great songs on offer and the band are extremely tight, innovative and interesting, it's the production that allows the album to sound so good while still being so abrasive.

Abrasive, arty, nasty, noisy, innovative and unique, Shellac are proof that there is still massive scope for experimentation and carving out new sounds with a standard guitar, bass, drums lineup in the indie-rock format. At Action Park is simultaneously interesting, difficult, catchy and just plain fun. In terms of musicianship, At Action Park has a lot to offer and sonically, you're unlikely to hear anything else quite like it.

Pros
Abrasive and noisy
Excellent production
Cool rhythms

Cons
Nothing major

Recommended Songs
My Black Ass
Pull the Cup
The Idea of North

Final Rating: 4/5



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user ratings (158)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Bukowski
April 24th 2007



45 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice, concise review.

This is my favourite Shellac album, just over 1000 Hurts. I really want to get their new album, it's out in like 2 months or something.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
April 24th 2007



2125 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, definitely looking forward to the new album. This is probably my favourite record of Albini's.

AlienEater
April 24th 2007



716 Comments


Albini is good but slightly overrated

I've not heard much Shellac but I thought it was cool

MrKite
April 24th 2007



5020 Comments


I never realised Steve did anything in bands. I just thought he was a producer.
Something has been bugging me lately; Did Kurt Cobain like Steve? I read on the internet he didn't and also saw that Kurt said he thought he was Mr. Punk.
This is a great review. I might check out some Shellac sometime.


Zmev
April 24th 2007



983 Comments


Dog and Pony Show is a cool song.

ValiumMan
April 24th 2007



493 Comments


Kurt Cobain also had about 500 "absolute favorite albums of all time".
Anyway, great review, apart from the fact that you use the word "abrasive" a little too often.
Shellac are okay, but a bit too "wilfully inaccessible" for me, if you know what I mean.

MrKite
April 24th 2007



5020 Comments


Kurt Cobain also had about 500 "absolute favorite albums of all time".

??? Sorry if I'm just dumb, but I don't understand.

Zebra
Moderator
April 24th 2007



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This review perfectly sums up my opinion on the album.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
April 24th 2007



2125 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Something has been bugging me lately; Did Kurt Cobain like Steve?


I think he wasn't into Big Black or anything, but he really liked his production on Pod and Surfer Rosa.

you use the word "abrasive" a little too often.


Probabaly. It's just the perfect word to describe the sound.

Slaapkamers
April 24th 2007



596 Comments


Been meaning to get this for awhile.

ValiumMan
April 25th 2007



493 Comments


??? Sorry if I'm just dumb, but I don't understand.

What I was trying to say is that Kurt Cobain reportedly said about a lot of albums that they were his "favorite album of all time" or something. Depending on the source, I variously read it was The Pixies' Doolittle, The Stooges' Raw Power, The Melvins' Bullhead and even King Crimson's Red.
It's not like I'm some kinda Kurt Cobain obsessive or something (In fact I don't like him much), I just happened to stumble across that stuff in various mags/websites.

MrKite
April 25th 2007



5020 Comments


Oh, thanks for clearing that up.


Neoteric
February 14th 2008



3243 Comments


This album is like In Utero but better.

fractured
May 15th 2008



365 Comments


Great review, I liked the history you gave on both Albini and the band. Il Porno Star rocks insanely as well. This band is one of the tightest I have ever seen perform as well.

Digging: Adebisi Shank - This is the Third Album of a Band Called

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
November 17th 2009



15000 Comments


my black ass is awesome

Simsalabim462
January 23rd 2010



159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Boche's Dick" is cool...

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2010



15000 Comments


the first track rules

qwe3
May 6th 2010



21355 Comments


hey a shellac thread

accompliceofmydeath
January 11th 2011



4192 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

At the dog and pony show

Digging: Devo - Freedom of Choice

porch
April 12th 2011



8453 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is just so me



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