Sunday, January 02, 2011

Popping up, early doors

Shellac.
Highbury Garage. 01jan11.

Shellac are not indefatigable tourers by any means, indeed playing live often just means a little time away from the office for guitarist and vocalist Steve Albini and bassist Bob Weston, the pair being respected recording engineers in the day-to-day.

So, to find them playing their first show of 2011 just 12 hours into it, and just 13 hours after their last show of 2010 (playing for All Tomorrow’s Parties with Sonic Youth and The Pop Group at Hammersmith Apollo), should probably not be taken as them starting the year as they mean to go on.

A mercantile machine they certainly are not. There is nothing in the merch booth this afternoon except for members of ATP staff, Bob Weston’s wife and a couple of toasters, as they distribute Pop Tarts, for free.

Like their gigs, the usual schedule anyway, Shellac’s albums are also sporadic concerns, although Weston claims that there will be a new record “at some point in the future”, and that it’ll be called Dude, Incredible. One heckler then offers Electric Sledgehammer as an option, which is immediately shot down as being ludicrous.

This banter is a fairly regular feature of the afternoon, with more bonhomie than one might expect. From afar Albini can appear to be a thorny, obsessive compulsive type and one heckler asks why Steve “was in such a bad mood last night?” “I was positively sparkling” he replies.

Indeed, you would imagine there would be plenty of bears-with-sore-heads here given the nature of the night before. When Albini asks “hands up who’s not been to sleep yet”, stringy, haggard drummer Todd Trainer raises his arm and smiles like someone who’s spent the last few hours staring into the sun. Clearly, with Bloody Mary’s on offer at the bar, this noon set is regarded as a hair-of-the-dog effort.

What better way to blow away the cobwebs, though, than a 90 minute Shellac-ing where the music will always be as lacking in frills as a hod-carrier’s hankie and as uncompromising as Nicolae Ceausescu’s retirement do.

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