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More likely to play Reykjavik than Detroit, and more likely to release songs on flexi-discs in Dutch comic books than provide MP3s on their website, Shellac (or Shellac of North America) operate completely outside the typical machinations of the music industry -- their press sheets typically exclaimed "no free lunch," referring to promo copies, the trio carved out a sizable niche as a minimalist rock band.
Steve Albini (ex-Big Black / Rapeman) formed Shellac on an informal basis in 1993. Buoyed by the attention garnered in the wake of his producing In Utero for Nirvana, Albini (guitar/vocals), fellow recording engineer Bob Weston ( bass) and Todd Trainer (drums) issued ‘The Rude Gesture: A Pictorial History’, the first of two limited-issue singles to appear on the trio’s own label. It offered all the trademarks of Albini’s previous bands - awkward time changes, thundering basslines, screaming guitar and frantic vocals. Weston was ex-Volcano Suns, while Trainer had worked with Rifle Sport and Breaking Circus. ‘Uranus’ followed in similar, exciting fashion. A third release The Bird Is The Most Popular Finger, comprising the tracks ‘The Admiral’ and ‘XVI’, came in a sleeve still showing Albini’s caustic remarks referring to how it should be designed. A different version of the a-side appeared on 1994’s At Action Park, which developed Albini’s distinctive style without subverting its power.
Shellac’s work remained as challenging as ever on the follow-up, Terraform, which was recorded in 1996 but not released until two years later. The trio’s third album 1000 Hurts (2000) was, like all their work, recorded entirely in analogue, and came packaged in a replica 5-inch tape box with DIY stickers. The part-time nature of Shellac meant there was a lengthy hiatus prior to the release of their next album. In the interim, the trio curated the 2002 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival at Camber Sands in East Sussex, England, and made infrequent live appearances.
The status of Shellac as one of the true remaining independent bands was given further credence by their actions, with the band often performing for a cut of the door sales minus expenses, and giving away free CD copies of their albums with the vinyl release, affirming Albini’s hatred of digital recording. Excellent Italian Greyhound, eventually released in 2007, was challenging and silly in equal measure, from the cover art painting of Weston’s dog through to the heavy riffing/crooning juxtaposition on the opening track on side two, ‘Genuine Lulabelle’.
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