Review Summary: While it does contain some quality material, Terraform is one of Shellac's weakest efforts.
During the early to mid 90's, a little known band named "Shellac
" was born in the cold city of Chicago, Illinois. You could call Shellac a super group of sorts, for it features musicians who originated from multiple different bands. Guitarist Steve Albini (Big Black
), bassist Bob Weston (Volcano Suns
), and drummer Todd Trainer (Brick Layer Cake
) all contribute to make some of the coolest noisy post-hardcore you'll ever hear. Shellac's first record, At Action Park
, was released in 1994 and met critical praise. In 1998, their follow-up record, Terraform
, was released. Unfortunately, Terraform
is one of the band's weakest efforts.
The biggest flaw with the album is its opening track, "Didn't We Deserve to Look at You the Way You Really Are". The song is a little over 12 minutes, (which is 1/3 of the entire record), and not much happens during the song. The track centers on a 2 note bass line, every once in a while the guitar will do something, such as following the bass line or playing a couple of chords, then abruptly stops. The only really interesting thing that happens throughout the entire track is Trainer's drumming, every minute or so he would build apoun his drum pattern, adding fills and such. However, besides a few loud moments here and there, there is nothing worth noting about this song. Luckily, though, almost everything after this is worth listening to.
Your attention is saved by the second track, "This is a Picture". It starts off like a normal Shellac song; Tight bass playing, booming drums, and scratchy guitars mixed with a riff that's so messy and thrashy, it'll never leave your head. Halfway through the song, the tone changes a little. The music is still rough, but it has a somber tone to it. By the end of the song, you're likely to replay it over and over again.
In fact, most of the tracks have that affect on you. They're so many moments on the album that you simply cannot forget. Songs like "Canada" has somewhat of a light-hearted feel to it, and "Rush Job" includes some of Shellac's catchiest guitar work. However, The two best tracks on the entire record are the two last songs: "House Full of Garbage" and "Copper".
"House Full of Garbage" is the second longest track, clocking in at just under 8 minutes. The bass on here is very sludgy and gives off a very concerning and, to an extent, scary tone. The drumming is not very interesting, but what makes up for it are the lyrics. The song tells a story about a hoarder who isolates himself from the world and spends most, if not all, of his time building monuments apoun monuments of trash in his home. It gets so bad to the point that there's even feces lying around his house. This track, unlike "Didn't We..." keeps your attention the entire time, plus, it sounds like they actually had some fun recording it.
Finally, we reach the end, "Copper". It is the shortest track on the album, not even passing the 2 minute mark. It's very energetic and includes some melodic singing from Albini, which, at this point in time, was somewhat rare from him. It talks about how copper will "never be gold" and should be used for things that it's good at, such as cooking. It's a very great way to end the album and leaves you as a listener happy. While the album is, for the most part, great, the major flaws really do drag the rating down a bit. If your new to Shellac, I would suggest listening to At Action Park
first, and save Terraform