Shellac at the Black Cat: How Long Does It Take To Microwave a Baby?The first few minutes of the Shellac show had me kinda nervous. They played "The End of Radio," a long, shambling improv rant that's never made any sense any time I've heard it. Uzeda, the opening band, had brought the signature Touch and Go sturm und drang to the stage, and it just never congealed for me. Would my indie-punk-post-rock-catch-phrase heroes be able to deliver?
The answer to that question: Shit yeah.
Shellac cooly, confidently pushed out one of the greatest shows I've seen in a long time. Most of the reviews tomorrow in the Post, DCist, whatever, are going to mention that the crowd was a little balder, a little fatter, slyly hinting that the indie scene is too old to rock. Those clever little reviewers can get fucked.
Shellac may be older, and Albini's metabolism mellowing into a lower gear, but my god, the music was spectacular. Brutal and wiry, Albini's guitar sound is a secret magic, a signature sound as recognizable as any note from Thurston Moore's hands. Steve Alibini plays like a gunslinger, spare, perfectly timed notes that swagger and slice their way through Todd Trainor and Bob Weston's flawless rhythm.
Trainor and Weston deserve special mention here as Shellac's rhythm section. Sure, Albini is a guitar god and a producer magician -- but Shellac is not a rhythm section behind a single star. All three of the guys are at the top of their game, starting, stopping, stuttering and lurching hard-rocking rhythms and dirgelike thunder on an absolute hairtrigger.
Todd Trainor's drumming has a hypnotic effect, like watching buildings get hit by wrecking balls: you know what's going to happen, you know how it's going to play out, but you just can't tear yourself away from it. Weston's bass is perfectly timed with those wrecking ball drums.
Unlike a lot of indie/punk bands that rose to fame in the 90's and never stopped looking at their own shoelaces (ahem, SLINT), Shellac engaged the crowd in a manner both warm and aggressive. They took questions from the audience. No requests, just questions. They told jokes, like
How long does it take to cook a baby in the microwave?Trainor flexed mic control and RULED a guy who joked his hair saying "Right, sure, like you're such an individual, with your beard and your little tattoo. I could go home with any of you jerks, but I won't. I've got a great dog, and besides, this is DC and you're all too conservative."
I don't know, I was busy jerking off.
I got no good way to end this thing, so I'm just out. Here's a video of Shellac playing "Steady as She Goes." You either love it or hate it, but you can't say it's like any rock music you've ever heard before.