Question: What’s orange and looks good on a hippy? Answer: Fire. Welcome to the school of punk rock, as taught by Steve Albini and Shellac. Shellac‘s headline performance tonight isn’t staggering because Steve Albini pushes his band to the total limits of live performance. It isn’t because live, Shellac are one of most astonishing and challenging bands around. It’s because Steve Albini is one of the few writers currently on the planet that would do anything for music. And will do everything to preserve his principles.
There are times when you think he is simply taking the piss out of an audience all to serious about their oversized record collections. Like when he stops a song half way through to make an feeble impression of an aeroplane. Or when he takes a song down to deathly silence, only for the bassist to belch into the microphone.
Tonight’s performance has only one conclusion – destruction and chaos. Three songs earlier Albini had stopped the set to nurse a hand – which afterwards he told nme.com had seized up with cramp from the continual bombardment it had suffered – and now, barely five minutes later he is dwarfed in front of a stack of guitar amps punishing his instrument and screaming, howling into his pickups, just to see what kind of a noise it would make.
Finally, he looks up, and for the first time smiles. “Now go and see Sonic Youth” he says. As if we were ever going to do anything else.