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LIVE REPORT: Shellac
Alex Franquelli , November 29th, 2013 10:36

Alex Franquelli reports back from the trio's London show at Netil House this week

Photos by Francesca Colasanti

You could not ask a band, any band, to be rawer than Shellac. The trio's sound is a sonic manifesto of their leader's ethics, and their live sets are an obvious extension of it. The stage lights are motionless; the drum kit is stripped to the core; no silly guitar changes; there is no fixed setlist and the band sweats, they're all ugly and do nothing to conceal their anatomic brutalism.

'A Minute' kicks off the evening and a mosh pit is quickly formed. Steve Albini's raucous, almost inaudible, off-key lament is easily covered by Todd Trainer's drumming in a state of apparent confusion. Apparent, because the pulse he provides is a meticulous and formidable clockwork, in the hands of a wandering mind which lets its inspiration take the lead from time to time. Improvisation is still a crucial component of Shellac's live set, and tonight's gig is no exception. 'Squirrel Song', 'Copper', 'Be Prepared', a silly Q&A session with the audience, 'My Black Ass' and 'Steady As She Goes', and more questions. Snare drums, a floor tom and a bass drum hardly seem to constitute sufficient tools for a solo. But in Trainer's case, they are more than enough to unleash one minute of mayhem before 'Canada' and 'Watch Song' bring Netil House to an almost unbearable temperature.

"Why aren't you wearing your usual red jeans?", a girl asks Bob Weston, whose body is drenched in perspiration. "His jeans are the colour of piss today," rebukes Albini, just before the usually quiet bass player admits that the pigment of his pants "is in tone with this gloomy country". The boos are quickly silenced by a 'Prayer to God' that is almost torn apart by Albini's voiceless screams, rants, curses. From time to time there is room for the skeleton of the occasional new song ("A new album should be out in less than 6 months," says Weston). 'Wingwalker' becomes a spoken word performance, which shifts into a wall of noise and feedback.

"Two more tracks and that will be it. There is no way you can talk us out of it," shouts Albini. Boom. 'The End of the Radio' and 'The Crow'. And that is really it. At the end, the whole band sits to talk with the audience, shake hands and sell t-shirts. One wonders whether or not it is possible to deconstruct rock in a more constructive way. "Great acts are made up of small deeds," Lao Tzu famously said. Albini hugs us while packing his stuff on stage. It is the same thing. It is exactly the same thing.

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