A Look Back At The Bands Of Steve Albini

Steve Albini. He’s a polarizing man within the rock community. He’s recorded (he hates the term “producer”) some of alternative rock’s most enduring works, which includes In Utero by Nirvana and Surfer Rosa by The Pixies. He was a one time rock journalist, and is still an outspoken critic against the norms and tropes of the music industry that makes Billy Corgan seem like the shy kid in the corner who never speaks.

Though he has recorded more music than most will ever even listen to in their lifetimes, many don’t realize that he is actually an influential and prolific singer/guitarist for multiple rock outfits, all of which share the trait of having weird names. Here’s a sample of three of his biggest projects: Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac.

Big Black

Albini’s first major project, Big Black have released two full length albums and multiple extended plays. This was the project that really made Steve into the underground legend that he is today. Besides their outspoken lyrics that held no bars in subject matter, what really set the band apart from other punk outfits of the 1980’s was their use of a drum machine, credited as an official band member named Roland. Apparently, Albini didn’t know any human drummers who didn’t “blow out of a pig’s asshole”. This gave them a distinctive industrial sound, predating the industrial rock revolution by years.  Their classic Atomizer, which Kurt Cobain listed as one of his favorites of all time in his journals, contains songs like the unrelentingly brutal “Jordan, Minnesota”, displaying stark lyrics about sexual abuse, the obnoxiously catchy riffage of “Passing Complexion”, and what is perhaps their most popular tune, “Kerosene”.[youtube id=”HuO3wwLuF0w” width=”620″ height=”360″]


No, Albini’s not glorifying rape. Rapeman (which also features members of Scratch Acid) was named after an offbeat Japanese manga that Albini became enamored with.  Albini’s second major project after the collapse of Big Black, Rapeman managed to release an EP and LP during their two years on the circuit. The group’s sound is similar to Big Black, though augmented with sort of a post-punk attitude.

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Albini’s third (and current) major project, Shellac is described on Wikipedia as being “post hardcore” or “math rock”. I hate labels, and its best to let the music do the talking. All I can really say is this: really tight riff-based rock music.  Go listen to their debut album At Action Park if you get the chance.

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  • darkdragon

    Pretentious music for pretentious people.

    • Minty Fresh

      Nope, just not corporate rock formulaic bullshit! I’d rather be locked in a dark room with ‘Songs About Fucking’ on repeat for an eternity than listen Kings of Leon or STP.

  • Big M

    @darkdragon hahahahahahahaha true but I do like some Big Black tunes.

  • Fernando Sjc Heesendower

    Didn’t this asshat call PJ, SP and other grunge acts coporate rock?

  • 4th of July

    Fernando Sjc Heesendower making shit up again, huh? Go fuck yourself.

  • http://bigbadbrockmusic.bandcamp.com walton

    Everybody should hear Prayer to God by Shellac.

    Also, this made me laugh:
    “I hate labels, and its best to let the music do the talking.” after having written:
    “some of alternative rock’s most enduring works”
    “other punk outfits of the 1980?s”
    “a distinctive industrial sound, predating the industrial rock revolution by years.”
    “sort of a post-punk attitude”

    You hate labels so much that you’re writing on a site that is about bands labelled as Alternative, formerly grungereport.net haha.

    Sorry, I’m just being an asshole. It’s good that you might have pointed some people toward these bands who hadn’t heard them before. Good work.

  • Raj

    There are some good tracks here, some of it reminds me of Black Flag. Albini had punk roots something Cobain envied. Albini’s sound is raw and edgy, no wonder he was picked to do In Utero. There’s an urgency and desperation in the music, it’s noisy and chaotic.

  • jesus

    i agree with walton. listen to Prayer to God from the album 1000 hurts and then make your opinions.
    Also his work with Failure’s debut album Comfort is notable. Pretty cool behind the scenes on the Golden DVD of the recording process for that album.

  • Artie Fufkin

    Let’s be fair, as great as Big Black were they didn’t really pre-date industrial did they? Throbbing Gristle? Cabaret Voltaire? Einstürzende Neubauten?

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