Excellent Italian Greyhound
“Is it really broadcasting if there’s no one there to receive,” Steve Albini asks during “The End of Radio,” leadoff track on new Shellac record Excellent Italian Greyhound. On a similar note, we could ask, Are you really a band if you haven’t recorded in seven years?
Okay, so the Chicago trio has played live since the 2000 release of previous album 1000 Hurts, but those shows could scarcely have been more sporadic, not to mention confined near the noise-rock purveyors’ Midwestern hub. Regardless, the time away from Shellac seems to have done Albini, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer good, resulting in their most consistently satisfying disc since 1994 debut At Action Park.
As always, the group sounds, at root, like many of the revered indie-rock outfits Albini produced—sorry, engineered—during the late ’80s and early ’90 (Slint, Jesus Lizard, Pussy Galore): purposefully harsh, no-trick aesthetics enveloping forward guitars, sludgy basslines, lumbering drums and shouted vocals. Excellent Italian Greyhound eclipses its most recent predecessors, however, on the basis of its songs, tracks that come off as more than mere vehicles for an overall musical ideology.
From the gleeful industry F-off “The End of Radio” to baleful post-9/11 spoof “Be Prepared” to artful instrumental “Paco,” Shellac sounds like the focused, primal animal that broke onto the scene more than a decade ago. It’s enough to raise another strange philosophical question: Just how good might this album have been had the band never bothered returning to the studio to record it?