Belvedere Jehosophat - Thursday, 6 September 2007
It's been a few years now since Shellac released their last record, 1000 Hurts, and, luckily, nothing has happened during this time to compromise their tendency to be completely unaccommodating and unpersonable. Shellac is still Shellac, and for this we should be thankful. The skronky guitars are still in play, as are the bizarre time signatures and that strange Albini production wherein the vocals are so low in the mix that it's hard to make out the lyrics.
Excellent Italian Greyhound kicks off with "The End of Radio," a song which easily rates as one of Shellac's best. This song is a little reminiscent of Terraform's "Didn't We Deserve a Look At You the Way You Really Are," but only in that both songs are constructed around a very basic set of repeated notes. There, though, the similarity ends - there being nothing else quite like Albini's philosophical rant about the end of radio. This song is simply stunning.
"Steady as She Goes" and "Be Prepared," the next two songs, are two typical Shellac rockers. Both are very good songs, with the latter, courtesy of the vocal melody and the lyrics, sounding a little like a Mclusky song before completely deconstructing into a shamble. "Elephant," the next song is a little slower, but no less heavy than the last two songs. "Anti-intellectual - the new virtue," Bob Weston (thanks, Luke) sings, and, "Repeat a lie - that makes it true." A Political song? If so, are these personal politics? Or are they political politics? Who can tell?
Smack-dab in the centre of the album dwells "Genuine Lulabelle." I really don't know what to make of this particular song. The longest song on the record and yet there's not much that's overtly song-like about it. Shellac have always pushed these boundaries, admittedly — drums that take too long to peter out, guitars that take forever to get going, weird time signatures, etc — and that's what made Shellac Shellac and, furthermore, what made Shellac so great. This particular mixture, though, of Albini crooning, sporadic guitars and weird samples is a little too much, like they've pushed the envelope a little too far. The song, however, has improved with subsequent listens, so perhaps time will prove me wrong.
The second half of Excellent Italian Greyhound contains two instrumentals, "Kittypants" and "Paco." "Kittypants" is short, the shortest song on the record, but also, by Shellac standards at least, surprisingly restrained and sweet. "Paco," on the other hand, is a lot more elaborate, and one of Shellac's best instrumentals. Between these two songs we find "Boycott," another typical Shellac rocker. The guitars on this song sound amazing, some of the best on the album, flipping between harmonics and carefully controlled distortion. Finally, closing out the record is "Spoke," a fast-clipped little ditty, with shouted gibberish and nonsense-words instead of vocals - a good closer.
Excellent Italian Greyhound is a little disappointing, I'm sad to say, but mostly because "Genuine Lulabelle" so disrupts the flow of the record that it makes it difficult to appreciate the last four songs. Outside of this small grievance, Shellac's latest record is pretty impressive, and well worth your hard-earned poetry.