Big Black

Small White
*special introductory paragraph!
*Lungs EP
*Bulldozer EP
*Racer-X EP
*The Hammer Party CD
*Headache EP
*The Rich Man's Eight-Track Tape
*Sound of Impact
*Songs About Fucking
Illinois's Big Black was a noisy raucous outfit with a fake drummer, created and masterminded by the short, angry and hilarious pissant Steve Albini. They weren't nearly as heavy as you'd expect a band called Big Black to be, but definitely every shard as noisy as you'd desire. Steve invented a brand new guitar tone so high-pitched, jagged, clanging, trebly and ringing, it would have been impossible for him to play normal music even if he had wanted to; lucky for the world of post-punk alternative rock and roll, he didn't. He wanted to play the aural equivalent of yellow journalism. His lyrics dealt with the scummiest elements of redneck middle American culture, the vocals were sternly spoken with the voice of a bitter, hateful man on the verge of punching somebody in the mouth, and the music was relentlessly pounding screeching bass-heavy mayhem -- occasionally with an actual melody! No no, but I'm kidding. Come on! Come on, you stupid asshole! Oh, I didn't mean that. I love you. All the songs have melodies, but some are a little easier to follow than others. Incidentally, if you've never heard of Steve Albini, he's mostly known as the controversial independent recording engineer who did In Utero for '60s art-rockers Nirvana. However, he's much more than that. Oh, much more. Since Big Black's demise in fact, he has led power trios with the hilarious titles of Rapeman and Shellac. Check them out! He's the king of sarcasm, and he's funny!

Reader Comments (Geoffrey King)
why do you have reviews to the who and AC/DC and stuff alongside the genius of Steve Albini which is Big Black? (Chris Schwarz)
Geoffrey King to Mark Prindle: "Why do you have reviews of The Who and AC/DC and stuff alongside the genius of Steve Albini which is Big Black?"

Steve Albini to interviewer: "I definitely appreciate bands that know their limits and stay within them," says Albini, siting Kentucky's Slint as a particular favourite. "The first three or four AC/DC albums are amazing, even though they're fairly interchangable in mood, style and tempo....I'm a firm believer in trusting your initial response to something."


You love listening to music, now make some of your own! Get your hands on musical instruments. Share your thoughts with the world using a wireless microphone, and get some friends to back you up on bass guitar and drums.

Lungs EP - Ruthless 1983.
Rating = 8

Big Black started off as just Steve and his drum machine Roland. Thus, this EP isn't exactly prime Big Black. However, it's still a really cool record. The songs are mechanical, empty, and draggy - like industrial music from Middle America, with Steve's already-acidic vocal tone and rotten attitude twisting simple minimalist melodies into threatening diatribes, the best of which is the opening track, "Steelworker" ("You see, I...I'm a bricklayer! I KILL what I eat!! You see? You see? I'm a hunter-gatherer!!! I KILL what I eat!!!"). It doesn't kick steaming hairy ass nuts like the later stuff, but if you like Throbbing Gristle or Front 242 at all, this might be right up your darkened alley. And it's got "Dead Billy!"

That's right! An actual dead child included with each copy!

Reader Comments (Peter Nicholson)
I got this on the Hammer Party album. I love it and listen to it to death. Fantastic. I always wondered who the fuck Roland was. Thanks. (Michael Walker)
I like Lungs better than Bulldozer or Racer X. It has an eerie, lonely quality that summons up whole ragged vistas. Bulldozer's sound doesn't match its own forthrightness, and Racer X's songs aren't as good.
I also have Lungs courtesy of Hammer Party. Wonderful album and you are so right, TG fans would like this album as well. I looked for Throbbing Gristle reviews and saw none. Why? So few people have heard of this wonderful band and they deserve the adoration of millions!

Add your thoughts?

Bulldozer EP - Ruthless 1984.
Rating = 8

Here's where the real Big Black stands up and declares an eminent ass-kickin'g'e. There's bass here and a second guitar and noise! Noise! Oh, the noise! Here, let me describe three songs in blindingly accurate verbiage: "Cables" is a fanta orangely intense skrinklefest about yanking Bob Costas in a slaughterhouse (if you know what I mean by "Bob Costas" -- hint: "Bob Costas is a _ _ _ _"), "Texas" is a hilarious anti-redneck bounce-a-thon, and "Seth" is kind of a spooker about a dog trained to attack black people. (Incidentally, if anybody out there can complete the line, "I don't know why he's so mean / I don't know why she's so...," please do so. As far as I can tell, he's saying "I don't know why she's so shpidudda!" And the odds of her being shpidudda are so very thin at this juncture, I feel I must be at error at least a wee iota.)

I'm sure that the other three songs are fine, too, but right now, I can't even remember how they go, so they mustn't be all that memorable. Still, a goodie. Lungs was really swell for what it was, but this is a more interesting and aggressive style, so it's probably more deserving of your undivided attention. But I warn you - from this point on, the band made not a single move towards musical or conceptual progression. Of course, they never started stinking, either, so enjoy the effervescent clanginess!

Reader Comments (Dan Westoby)
"I don't know why he's so mean / I don't know why she's so...,"

...strung out?

Sounds like it to me.

"Cables" is up there in my top-ten stomping-around-your-bedroom list. (Christian Smith)
Since you hadn't posted it, I thought I'd share my stab at the lyric with the public. I hear it as "I don't know why he's so mean, I don't know why she's so secretive." Not very exciting, I know. And I might be wrong--those first couple sure don't sound anything like that. But the one at 3:17 into the song is definitely "secretive," and the one following it sounds to be as well, though it's more distorted and closer to the first occurrences.

"Seth" is a great song, too. And boy, that intro will get your ass kicked quicker than a shirt that hilariously says "Kick My Ass!" on the back. (Paul Stewardson)
I'm probably wrong but I thought the line was 'I don't know why he's so mean, I don't know why she's so screwed up.' Can I also say that 'Kerosene' is without doubt the best rock song ever written, by anyone, ever. (Ces & Dig Lawson)
Bulldozer is probably my favorite of the first three Big Black records. The songs are really catchy and poppy. This is their only release with a real drummer, I think, but it's hard to tell. Great lyrics too, although I'm not sure what Steve is saying in 'Seth' either. (Michael Walker)
About the chorus of "Seth": my friends and I always assumed it was, "I don't know why she's so secretive." It's delivered in a rapid slur, but we always heard "secretive", every time. (But don't tell that to Reid Fleming.)

In the "Pig Pile" video, Albini does not have a nosebleed. In his tour diary in Forced Exposure # 13 he says that an audience member was squirting him with a bottle of fake blood. I watched the video after reading this, and saw that the stains weren't blood-colored.

The clear, one-sided 45 that came with the "Pig Pile" video was a cover of the Mary Jane Girls' song "In My House". (Sam)
This ep fuckin' rules. Even better than lungs, cause it's got musicians using instruments to play tunes. Cables, Pigeon Kill, I'm A Mess and Texas are all arse-kickers in their own special way.
Is anyone familiar with the word 'shibboleth'? It's a real word, it may not have anything to do with being bitten by a racist dog, but it does fit.
And does anyone else think this ep could be an influence on Garth Ennis & Preacher?
Hey Mark,

I think you'd find this interesting. I emailed Steve Albini about the sample in the beginning of "Seth" and here's what he wrote back:

insult me back as much as you'd like, but i'd really like to know where the hell you got that sample in "seth" from.

steve albini:
There was a crazy white pride phone line on the south side, I think it was called the America First Committee, I just taped it off the phone with one of those Radio Shack bugs.

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Racer-X EP - Homestead 1984.
Rating = 8

Pretty much the same as Bulldozer. Sample lyric - "I'm God's gift to women / They all want my dick / Except for that college girl / I'll kill her!" Same noises, same phake beets, same writing style, same attitude. Still F-in' bone, though. The mechanical James Brown cover is a dang hootie and the blowjob. I mean, shoes ahoy!

Perhaps I'm getting a little vague with my diction.

Add your thoughts?

* The Hammer Party CD - Homestead 1986. *
Rating = 10

CD! CD! The LP only gets a 9! The CD compiles all three of the previous EPs (the LP doesn't have Racer-X), and it's just the best - the Best's REVIEW! The BestWIRE! The BestWEEK! Come on, we're all in the insurance industry here - sing with me!

The minor shortcomings that can mar a six-song EP (you know, I just can't decide whether to capitalize "ep" or not. Sometimes I get the urge to do so, but most of the time, I leave it lower-case just cuz, you know, they're only like 20 minutes long or something.... Hardly deserving of the capitalization honor, I say.) are hardly noticeable on an eighteen-song CD that contains this many amazing noises and melodies. Eighteen songs! From early Steve to mid-period full-on three-person hate racket, this is the one you want. Seriously, you'll hardly even notice the few dull ones between winners like "Deep Six" and "Crack."

Many will argue that this early stuff doesn't quite stand up to Atomizer and Songs About Fucking, but it does. The songs may not be better, but most of them are as good, and neither of those albums has anywhere near as many songs as this one. It's just basic economics. The wise man would buy The Hammer Party CD. You need "Steelworker," "Texas," and "Shotgun." And where else are you gonna get all three, eh? Eh? They ain't no dang BB box set now, izzere? Eh? Eh? Yeah, fuck you.

Just kiddin' about that "fuck you" thing! Ha! Sometimes I just can't suppress the biting wit! Hee!

Reader Comments (Ted Hollon)
oh, you are so wrong. there IS a box set.
You know, this CD kicks motherf***'in ass but one thing bothers me.

Here it is: Steve Albini worked with Bush on their last album, and I read a Bush cover story in Spin where Steve was saying how he enjoyed the music and liked the guys. Now, is he just, like, lying through his teeth or did he really give up his "indie" stance????
Hmm. I gotta disagree here Mark, I don't think the songs here are anywhere near as good as on the next two albums. Sure there are face-rippers like "Texas" (how about that one palm muted E-string? One of the most kickass moments in rock and roll is when that one string line comes in), "Ugly American" and "Cables" (my favorite Big Black song), but there are also stinkers from Lungs, and it peters out at the end. It's still a good listen and interesting to trace the direction little Stevie was taking with his kickass hate racket, but it's more interesting than fun to listen to. 7/10

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Atomizer - Homestead 1986.
Rating = 8

Their first full-length (out of a whopping two), this record does a spiffy job of presenting the many sides of an awfully creative collective, from the sonically innovative ("Passing Complexion," which features one of the most unimitatable guitar sounds ever created - plus a hip dance beat!) to the explosive and violent ("Kerosene," "Jordan, Minnesota") to the hooky (the dopey "Strange Things" and the doc "Big Money") to the beautiful (Believe it or not, "Bad Houses" is beautiful, by Ripley!).

A couple of dull ones at the beginning of side two mar the proceedings a wittle, and "Jordan, Minnesota" isn't nearly as disturbing as a song about a whole town of child molesters should be, but "Bazooka Joe" tears, and "Kerosene" is universally considered (and rightly so) to be the best song that this band ever recorded. An amazing heavy pounding building tale of rural boredom and its simple cures, it's the epitome of what the band did best - vicious rhythmic noise that somehow leaves you with a distinct memorable melody running through your head at the end of the day. Aaaah. This album is what we in the business call "an underground classic." Much like a gopher.

Ha! Gopher indeed!

Reader Comments
i got this album by accident, when i bought a compilation, and they put the wrong tape in. Never heard of them before, and now, i love them!! (Chris Collins)
Great album, 'cept for "Fists of love" which keeps it from one smooth (smooth in ref. to Big Black (!?) ) listen all the way through. "Kerosene" has some great melodic guitar work.. regardless of the guitar tone, which is awesome, albini could come up with a great melody, just sans bullshit happy frillings. Take "Bad Houses" of course.. the Beatles are boring. THIS is pop music! The live "Cables" is killer, love that violent guitar noise leading into it. (Christian Smith)
"Jordan, Minnesota" is based on an actual news story. I forget which year it was, but there was a pair of private daycare workers who were accused of molestation. Then concerned parents and overeager social workers managed to get in such a huff, and ask so many leading questions of the kids, that there ended up being something like 20 people accused of sexual abuse. Of course, sane investigation demonstrated that such a HUGE "satanic sex ring" did NOT exist in Jordan. Knowing that helps make the song a little creepier, though I agree that he doesn't really do justice to the concept--too few words!

I learned this from the book Satan's Silence, which is one of the scariest things you will ever read. Imagine being accused by a child...children don't lie, right? Only adults lie...YOU must be perverted monster....

Spooky. (Glen Gibbs)
Quite possibly the best album of the eighties. Big Black combined Industrial with Hardcore Punk in a way that many people have tried to equal, but have failed miserably (Nine Inch Nails for example). The production is amazing. Scratchy, cold, "evil" for lack of a more palpable descriptive word. Guitar duo Steve Albini and Santiago Durango use a guitar tone and playing style that at times reminds me of Andy Gill of Gang of Four turning the distortion up to eardrum shattering levels. The score of 8 puzzles me a bit. While it doesn't quite have the quantity of fantastic songs that the Hammer Party CD has. It has, in my opinion, the largest percentage of great songs packed into a rather short album. "Kerosene", "Bad Houses", "Bazooka Joe", all underrated classics. "Passing Complexion", my favorite Big Black number, literally made me turn as white as a ghost upon my first listen, still does today. It is the audio equivalent of being on the receiving end of a barrage of punches to the gut for three minutes. Then it suddenly stops, leaving you exhausted and wondering what just happened. It is also what I believe to be the most lyrically provocative song they ever made. I do not wish to take up anymore room on your page. So I'll end with saying that this is an album that will stand the test of time from a band that will soon join their elder gods (Gang of Four, Wire, PIL) atop the post-punk Mt. Rushmore.
Terrific album, despite the production which renders the bass almost inaudible. "Kerosene" is, like Mark said, an epic Big Black tune (how the fuck does he get that intro guitar sound?? it sounds like breaking glass), "Jordan, Minnesota" is a fist-pumping, booty-shaking head-banger, and the supposedly weak songs near the middle are just as strong as the others, in my opinion, especially "Fists of Love". I think if more fans of crappy, cliched "heavy metal" like Korn and Megadeth got a hold of this one their viewpoint on what great music is would change. 9/10

PS-Has anyone noticed how hard it is to learn a Big Black song on guitar? You can't tell what effing chords Albini is playing because it sounds like a fucking vacuum cleaner. But in a good way.
this album is one of the greatest ever made. steve albini & friends helped destroy pop music for me and i am very grateful.

Bill Lee
When I first heard Atomizer (the 1st BB thing I ever heard), I was totally stunned by the noises being made by Albini's guitar and tried for ages to get my guitar to sound like it. No luck at all.

Until I bought a cheap n' shitty analogue delay pedal. Turned the feedback up to max and the delay time to zero. Bingo - instant Albini. Sounds like your guitar is spitting out of a meat grinder - just like the record.
atomizer is big black's coolest release because it came at a time when they truly found their sound but were still hungry and were looking forward to a future as a band. their other full-length record, songs about fucking, was incredible but lacked focus and sounded like a band who had quit and wanted to go out with a bang. you get a fairly large dose of big black (compared to the e.p. releases) at their most prolific stage with atomizer. this is when steve was still having fun pissing people off. kerosene, live cables. those two alone make the album essential.
My favorite tracks are "Stinking Drunk" and "Kerosene." Albini's vocal on "Stinking Drunk" is brilliant, as is Dave Riley's sheet-metal bass, and of course Roland does a great job. I'd say this is probably my favorite Big Black LP, though it could change.
{{"Jordan, Minnesota" isn't nearly as disturbing as a song about a whole town of child molesters should be"}}

well how do you know how disturbing it should be? but the thing i really wanted to say is my gf refuses to listen to this song to the end, when she hears this "auch" she literally yells at me to turn this off cuz she cant stand it (that is, after i told her what this song is about). ohm,m, yeah i wanted to add that kerosane is uber cool but you said it yourself
Albini and Durango used acoustic bronze guitar on their cheap Tele copies. That's what made them sound like shattering glass.

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Headache EP - Touch And Go 1987.
Rating = 7

Four more songs - same old stuff. The guitars are ringing together like an orchestra of irritating car alarms, and the bass and fake drums are thumping along faithfully. The only problem is that there's only four songs on it. Not exactly bang for your eight bucks. Still, I love that song about the tools!

Reader Comments (Steven Whitwill)
If this were a 7-Inch, it would be the best record ever cut. Eliminate "My Disco" and the silly discotheque-ness of "Pete, King Of All Detectives," and you've got two of the best songs (if not the best) that Albini ever shit out. "Ready Men" makes me kick my cat. RAAAAHHHHH!!!!!
No, this one blows. "Ready Men" is an out and out classic, but the others are just weak, non-catchy and plodding, sounding like bad Ministry B-sides. 3/10 But it's only an EP, who cares.
Do not make the mistake of looking at the limited edition cover of this EP.

Now that that's taken care of, let's talk about the music.

Well, there was a sticker on the usual-release EP, with a nice safe cover drawn by the Savage Pencil, that said, "Warning: Not as good as 'Atomizer,' so don't get your hopes up, Cheese." And indeed, it isn't as good as "Atomizer," but that doesn't mean it blows. Not at all. If anything, I'd say it's a little underrated, but only a little - it's clearly not in the same ballpark as "Atomizer."

Sure, "My Disco" is pretty sophomoric - I can understand the urge of slipping the word "disco" into a title of a Big Black song, but it's tasteless even for Steve to yell "It's my disco" from the viewpoint of some middle-class freak admiring his fancy footwork while stomping his newborn baby to death because of its deformities. But hey, the metallic and obscured vocal screeches pave the way for the anti-voice garblings that made "Songs About Fucking" so much fun to try and decipher, and the music is okay.

But "Grinder" is a great song - now this song is actually funny, as opposed to moronically sub-literate. This is the song about the tools. Basically, someone takes a guy's tools, and the guy has a screaming fit. It's hilarious, and the music is great, really twisted and mucked-up near-disco with Big Black's trademarked dual belt-sander guitar mauling.

"Ready Men" is usually called the best song here, and it is really damned good, with a really smart slow-to-fast groove, the standard-issue guitar scraping, and lyrics about teamsters and unions. "Pete, King of All Detectives" is probably the most superficially danceable of the songs here, and concerns a completely racist thug detective named Pete who seems to think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Again, not all that funny or necessary lyrically (I usually tend to regard Big Black lyrics as offensive jokes). The place where I'd say this EP really wasn't up to snuff was the lyrics, admittedly not always Albini's strong suit. C'mon, you can barely tell what some of these songs are supposed to be about without looking at the liner notes, and even they are really vague and stupid. Musically, though, this little thing is more than adequate, and still very creative; "Grinder" and "Ready Men" are two of the better Big Black songs out there. So this gets about an 8 or so, but a low 8, because those lyrics for "My Disco" and "Pete, King of All Detectives" really do suck, and the music there isn't as up to par as usual either. Still, "Grinder" is really funny.

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The Rich Man's Eight-Track Tape - Homestead 1987.
Rating = 9

More is better. This CD compiles Atomizer, Headache, and the Heartbeat single. Manny, does that Steve know how to give you consumers more for your dollar. You can now get the entire studio output of Big Black on three CDs. Seven records repackaged on three CDs. Man, that's the crap. I'd like to appear more enthusiastic, but I'm getting tired of exclamation points.

Reader Comments (Steven Whitwill)
You know what gets me in the cajones? "Il Duce" is not on here. What the fuck, Stevie?
This was my first exposure to Big Black (thank you Rob!). I immediatley bought it for myself, followed by Songs about Fucking and Hammer Party and then forced my friends to listen to it (I do that to them often and they continue speaking to me so I continue to do it). Rich Man's 8 Track is so perfect, there is no other way to describe it.
he doesnt just leave out "il duce" (which by the way is easily one of the top five songs to come out of this band) he leaves out "strange things" too. this is strange things we're talking about, for christs sakes! strange things! that's like compiling nsync's first three records on some sort of super cd and then cutting out "(god must have spent) a little more time on you" for no goddamn reason at all!

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Sound of Impact - Walls Have Ears 1987
Rating = 8

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Big Black were a dog dressed up like a pumpkin? I know I have. Unfortunately, I guess we'll never know and this mystery shall haunt us for as long as we both shall live.

This "approved" bootleg appears to feature material from three different concerts, including performances of the first four songs on Atomizer, two Bulldozer tracks, and one each from Lungs, Racer X, Headache and Songs About Fucking, as well as a pair of rare tracks from a limited edition single and the God's Favorite Dog V/A compilation. These two rare tracks include, but are not limited to, (1) a cover of new wave chestball "Rema Rema", (2) dark, slow and catchy original "Crack Up," and (3) many, many others. Of note: three different songs appear on this CD twice but, in this case, that's a good thing. Here, come a little closer to the screen and I'll explain why.

You see, the first eight songs were recorded with the mic in such a position that the bass guitar is almost inaudible. As such, these recordings are trebly and clangy as all hell. This is fine for the most part because the abrasive guitar tones are a big part of Big Black's charm, and because it's pretty hard to ruin guitar hooks as killer as "Big Money," "Cables," "Pigeon Kill" and (especially) "Passing Complexion." However, there's no denying that the bass lines of "Ready Men" and "R.I.P." are pretty significant features of the songs, rendering these recordings tepid and tuneless. But back up way across the room and I'll tell you what happens halfway through the CD.


Thanks a lot. Rifle Sport is up next.

Reader Comments

Mihajlo Lalic
I see the song's name written as ''R.I.P." quite often, but have always thought it was wrong... The chorus goes "We have to rip this up/It doesn't look quite right" - so isn't the name of the song "Rip"?

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Songs About Fucking - Touch And Go 1987.
Rating = 8

Moms just love to see this one lyin' around the homestead. Same ol', same ol', but perhaps even more melodic in places! And, get this.... LESS melodic in other places! Holy wow! A real conundrum of YEAH! It's got tons of neat noises (i.e. the echoed whale call-sounding swoop noise hidden among the clamoring tin of "Bad Penny"'s chorus; the horrific scraping noise that's supposed to pass for a "guitar line" in "Kitty Empire" or "Ergot" or whichever goddamned fucking song it is; the entire guitar line of "Fish Fry," which sounds something like "KANG! KANG! KANG! KANG! KANG! KANG!" repeated over and over again), aggressive rock and roll ("Colombian Necktie" and "L Dopa," which is my (update: WIFE)'s favorite Big Black song, which reminds me - did I mention how cool it is to have a (update: WIFE) who likes Big Black? Actually, there's truckloads of cool things I could say about her.... Do you have a cool (update: WIFE)? Mine is the kind that you'll never leave because you know there's nobody in the world you would want more than her. She's beautiful, sexy, loving, caring, fun, funny, smart, faithful, and, most importantly, she loves puppies. You see, unlike Mr. Albini at his earlier age (update: HE'S BEEN DATING SOMEBODY FOR A LONG TIME, LAST I HEARD), I'm all for love. As long as you don't just settle for someone you don't really like, it's the most rewarding thing you will ever do. Drifting through life alone is deadening. Drifting through life with someone you hate is bullshit. But spending every day with a person who is both a best friend and a special sweetie makes all the other crap worthwhile. I've found my soulmate. I suggest you do the same.)(2011 UPDATE: She turned out not be my soulmate after all, and left me after 15 years.), and another glimpse into the far reaches of Albini's mind where he hides his appreciation of that which we in the regular world refer to as "pretty" ("Tiny, King Of The Jews").

I'm not incredibly fond of either of the cover songs (Kraftwerk's "The Model" and Cheap Trick's "He's A Whore"), but most of the originals are...well, exactly what you might expect from these guys. I think there's even a new bass player on this album, but how the hey would you tell one way or the other? It's Albini's band. How he wants it to sound, it will sound. But he's got a good ear and a sharp mind. This is noisy stuff, but it's not just haphazard racket. Listen close to the noise and you can hear that it repeats; the noise is the melody, and backed as it is by rigid bass and mechanical drums, it's actually much tighter and well-constructed than much of what you'll hear on classic rock radio (Albini's not a wanker - you aren't going to hear eight-minute guitar solos on these recordings. Unless you put them in yourself. Hey, maybe you should! That would rock ASS!).

Yes, sometimes the tinny racket can seem impenetrable, but you just have to buck up, take some Tylenol, pay attention, and understand that this is what the post-punk ethic was originally all about before young classic rockers like Candlebox and Silverchair completely destroyed it - keeping the hardcore attitude while daring to escape the "louder, faster" bar chord rules of punk rock. Albini created this band's sound. He didn't steal it. And now Big Black is gone, and it's up to you to keep their memory alive. So go buy something by 'em, dammit!!!!!

"Dammit"? Hell, "DAMN it!"

Reader Comments
I think your Big Black review and its posts are a complete dipshit collective and you and your asinine comments should be tied to a chair and shot. But you probably won't post this so I won't waste my time going into specific details. (Jason Carter)
Pasha90- You are a complete dipshit. You and YOUR asinine comments should be bent over a table and fucked in the ass with an ungreased spatula. I won't squander the valuable resource known as time by going into specific details. (Scholing Jan)
Big black was the band of three guys, not of one. Songs about fucking was recorded in the same line-up as Atomizer. The "Passing complexion" guitar thing is very well imitatible. It doesn't have a dance beat. I just broke up with a girl who liked Big black. Because she was not at all cool. Good work, man. (Ted Hollon)
well, my girlfriend loves em. but then again, she likes the chemical brothers.........anyway, it is very delighting to see that someone out there actually knows who big black is. wow. i thought they were a figment of my imagination. either that, or i am the only person out there to buy their records. shellac is very good but incomparable to big black. i mean it was a different time and a different attitude. they both are amazing bands. you know, santiago wrote alot of big black stuff, it was really 50/50. albini just sang. a lot of guitar work should be credited to Durango. albini is a total asshole. don't ever talk to him. he is too busy trying to be a genius. he is really wrapped up in himself, but damn can the guy rock.........hey, email him...get him to tell you to leave him alone. it is will reply and be very rude. what a poor baby. he has the greatest band, gets his dick sucked every night, scams major labels out of money, but he is still too cool to talk to the people that listen to his music. if you read this steve, you are a bastard. get laid and maybe you will cool down......rock salt is salty. (Gene J. Carbone Jr.)
Is really albini's e-mail address? (Just kiddin'.) I'm just happy I had Songs About Fucking on vinyl... (the future belongs to the analog loyalists. fuck digital.) Lent it to a buddy, and ended up finding it 9 or 10 years later on CD... What luck. (Oh well about "fuck digital"... At least it still sounds like shit, but won't wear out for a long time!) (Ryan Peterson)
This album is tight, really tight...sphincter tight. I think its stand up and above the rest of there work in accessibility and consistency. The guitar work on the opening track "the power of independent trucking" just Shreds! Really on this album you can really appreciate the sounds of BOTH guitars blazing at once, just slightly off from one another. My favorite track is "kitty empire" I love the plodding pace, and when steve kicks in that shrill guitar! His lyrics are all hilarious (if you ever figure them out.) And play this in your car when you drive, it will increase your accuracy at hitting pedestrians! GRRR! Also check out the live video sometime "pigpile" steve gets a nosebleed in the beginning and by the end he is covered in blood! I haven't watched it in while, but my video i think came with a small clear single, which I think contained "il duce" but since I don't have a record player I cant verify that (thats right, i'm a digital sucker). Like it says in the liner they did what too few bands do, break up while they are AHEAD!! This record is un-toppable!
Big Black's apex. The first side of this album is basically flawless; tighter and more "rock" than Atomizer was, and catchier to boot. Albini sounds out of his gourd and his spewings here are more "scary" than "funny", which is bonus for us. Yeah, the second half is not as strong as the first, but it's still got some terrific songs (the "Kerosene"-style breaking-glass guitar of "Ergot", the klangs of "Pavement Saw" and the amusing, catchy Cheap Trick cover, which is probably the lone spot of light heartedness on the album). 10/10 . There's no bad songs, by the way. (Conan Neutron)
First off let me agree with those that have mentioned that Big Black was not an 'army of one' as most people seem to think, neither were Rapeman nor is Shellac. Just because Steve does not have a problem expressing an opinion doesn't mean he's a 'dick' moreover, even if he was it has zero bearing on the music. Futhurmore saying that big Black songs are 'against love' is, to be quite frank, a very unenlightened position. Anybody that's ever spoke with Steve, or for that matter Santiago, Dave or anybody else who was ever involved in Big Black would probably laugh endlessly at that comment. (I know I did) I think I read some interview somewhere where somebody mentioned a band being a bunch of people who get together, one guy brings in an idea for a song and the others all do their best to sabotage it until you have a finished product. Speaking as somebody in a band, I think that's very apt.

As far as if there are any 'bad songs' or not, 'good' and 'bad' are completely subjective terms, so keep in mind that not everybody on the planet has the same opinions as you. Disagreeing with a review happens a lot, heck I place very little faith in reviews at all, as I tend to enjoy making up my own mind. A condition many people are not comfortable with.

But then again that's me and others may not subscribe to the theory.

For the record may or may not be Steve's address but either way i'm certain he does not enjoy getting e-mails from people he does not know or care to know. Quite frankly I don't blame him, as I don't either, as I mentioned earlier the man does not have any problems expressing himself, so if anybody does get the 'smart' idea to try and spam him, or for that matter any person, famous or otherwise, please realize you'll probably get exactly what you deserve. A good text lashing.... (for lack of a better term)

Oh also, if 'famous' people get harassed through an e-mail address or repeatedly bothered please remember that they can easilly change their e-mails so that their private addresses do not get out. It does make sense...

and lastly, Also remember that even if you recently got 'into' Big Black and want to personally thank Mr. Albini for making such great music with the other members, that's fine, but remember that he's been in two terrific bands since then (one of which, SHELLAC, is still very much active) and is more then likely tired of constantly being asked about his 'Big Black' days. After all the band broke up just as it was hitting it's peak of popularity, so I doubt he would enjoy 'rock star' treatment.

Ok getting off my soapbox now....
Steve Albini is a fine, upstanding citizen of the community. He believes in love, has a pet cat, and will actually help little old ladies across the street.
what's with all this anti-shellac shit. terraform may not be all that great, but their other releases are just as good as anything big black put out. weston and trainer make a great rythym section and albini can still effectively give you a headache. (Raamon Ben Ateach)
big black is the biggest and the blackest banda in the(uNIWErSe)!!!!!!!!!!!! !!! KRAFTWERKS` song THE ModEl by big black is the strongest piece of art i ewer heard, i`d like to joint the big black FUN Or FUNNY club if something like that exists at ALL.
Okay, seeing as how there's been some questioning here about Shellac, let me put in my pitiful, worthless opinion just so you guys can contrast it with your own...

I thought that At Action Park was a damn fine punk/rock album. New, meatier guitar tone that may not be as exciting as the one used on Big Black records but which nonetheless kicks ass. Trainer is one of the greatest drummers out there. And I suppose Weston does some stuff on there too...I'd give that one an 8/10.

Terraform disappointed me. Not speaking for everyone, because I know plenty of Shellac fans that like the album, but to these ears it drags. It's like the debut with a bunch of life sucked out of it. Only two or three songs really register. 5/10

Again, this is not an attempt by me to act as some sort of "comparer" between Big Black and Shellac...just one man's opinion. Take it as you will.
big black was beautiful, but they're gone. rapeman was beautiful, but they're gone. shellac is beautiful. they're still here. thought i'd sum it all up, because i've never heard/read so many people arguing about what's good and what's not about steve albini & friends. they all seem like cool people, also. everything steve albini has done is as good as he wanted it to be. for the best thing he has done yet, though, check out the new shellac album 1,000 hurts.
As a matter of fact, Mr Prindle I do have a bitchin ass girlfriend. Shes smart, sweet, kind, caring, gives me back rubs, and is a fan of the Misfits song "Last Caress". What else could I ask for?! And this alblum is cool- L-DOPA is my favorite song too! Does that mean I get to have sex with you as well? (Matthew Hudson)
Anyone out there want to trade Big Black bootlegs? I've got about 35 but I'm always looking for more. E mail me here. (Jonathan Giardina)
Your comments concerning who deserves the most credit for Big Black's sound or who decided what their music sounds like lead me to assume that you have never seen Big Black play live whether in person or on video. I've seen their "Last Blast" video and observed for myself what role Albini had in creating their music. People may not be able to tell just by listening to their records, but if you saw them in concert you'd discover that Santiago Durango was responsible for much more of their sound than he's is given credit for. There were a many times during the concert where Albini was just singing and not playing and other times when he was messing with the amps, and it didn't matter that much. True, Albini played many of the parts that people cherish the most, such as the openings to 'Cables' and 'Kerosene' but all of the other lush and "beautiful" sounds were played by Durango. Also, "Dead Billy" played with Dave Riley sounds much better than the studio version.
This album is GRRRRRRREAT! What I don't understand is why almost every review I've read says that the second side is weaker. The whole album is just killer! Such great songs as Pavement Saw and Tiny, King of the Jews are on the second side. The former is nearly the best love song I've ever heard know (or care about) and the latter is so gloriously moody and depressive that they both serve as perfect end songs.

This album is a perfect 10 in my book, as is Atomizer. (Graham Field)
No one has come close to Big Black (with exception of Swans). Loved them when I was 16, loved them now I'm too old. Shame about Shellac.
Steve Albini's gaggle of industrial nerds get together for one last release and blow the doors off a lot of the competition. I changed my mind, and now I think "Songs About Fucking" is the best Big Black album, not "Atomizer." To address Mark's question - the lineup is exactly the same as "Atomizer." Dave Riley is still the bassist. Santiago Durango is credited as "Melvin Belli," which is a pretty funny joke. Big Black broke up because Durango was going to law school and because the relative disappointment of the "Headache" EP had left the band feeling like they were creatively spent. The real Melvin Belli was an infamous celebrity lawyer who was called "The King of Torts." He represented Jack Ruby at his trial for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, chose Altamont as a nice place for the Stones to have a free concert, represented Sirhan Sirhan at his trial for shooting Robert F. Kennedy, represented Jim Bakker at his conspiracy and fraud trial, and had one of the most sickeningly sleazy divorces in - get this - San Francisco history. No wonder Albini liked this guy.

My favorite tracks are "Bad Penny," "L Dopa," "Precious Thing," "Kitty Empire," "Ergot," "Fish Fry," "Pavement Saw," and "Tiny, King of the Jews." Especially "Ergot," with it's twisted drum machine part (mind-bogglingly creative), and coruscating guitars. You can't clearly distinguish a word Albini screams, either - real aggression. Some great lyrics and bass-playing on "Bad Penny" and "L Dopa" is fast and foaming at the mouth. Like all Big Black, this LP's best when it's most aggressive, but "Tiny, King of the Jews," despite it's nasty title, is a relatively quiet, strong, and powerful examination of the motivation behind a character's prejudice and, while there are no solutions offered, shows that Albini does have a social conscience: "Man's gotta hate somebody, and I guess that I'll do; and when I get done hating myself, I think I'll start on you..." While not exactly flowery oratory, it's very eloquent in it's own way. The two covers are all right, I guess; "He's A Whore" ends the album on a lighter note, and "The Model" is done with some flair, though a little too shrill for my ears. Since there isn't a Big Black album that's completely flawless, there are a couple songs I dislike; "Columbian Necktie" is underwritten, uncompelling and ugly, never a good combination, "Bombastic Intro" is just jokey filler to expand the LP to 14 tracks, and I don't remember a damn thing about "Kasimir S. Pulaski Day." The sequencing is also a little wonky - following "The Power of Independent Trucking" with "The Model" wasn't the best idea in the world - and the album only clocks in at 31 minutes. But of the two original Big Black albums, I prefer this one, because "Fists of Love" and "Strange Things" on "Atomizer" both actively suck balls for a living. This one gets an A minus.

Pigpile - Touch And Go 1992
Rating = 8

This review won't be funny (not that the others WERE, the majority of this page having been written 400 years ago before Johnny Carson invented laughter). I'm tired, exhausted, and not looking forward to going to Tae Kwon Do tonight and then taking a Tae Kwon Do belt test tomorrow (ruining an otherwise perfectly drunken Friday night and lazy Saturday). So comedy is the last thing on my mind. Oh sure, I could halfass it and just spell Steve Albini's name wrong over and over again, like "Steve Albany did so-and-so" or "Steve Balini loved his stroke books" or what-have-you, but I don't feel that spark today -- that spark of light so important to the mind of whimsy. No wait. I have an idea. I'll "fake" it.

This is a live CD recorded during Bag Bleck's final tour, before Songs About Frugging was released. (*makes hilarious fart noise*) It includes two tracks each from the Dungs and Buttdozer EPs (*pulls entire large intestine out of anus, twirls it around like a lasso*), 4 songs each from Sodomizer and Songs About Ducking (*does little dance, juggles three jobs*), and 0 songs each from the Racer XXX and Headcake EPs (*takes crap on disabled child*). Isn't it interesting that they announced their breakup BEFORE their final tour and album? Who's with me? (*replaces own teeth with thumbtacks, dresses as piranha for Halloween*)

The band's live guitar tones are just as scrapy, tinny and scratchy as on the studio records, but the bass is a little quieter so the material isn't as explosive. POW! Heh heh heh. Also, lacking the tight reins of studio production, some of the songs seem to lose their melodies betwixt the incorrigible guitar tones at times. SKRINKLE KISSSHHHH! Ho ho ho. Even though the guitars are separated into each speaker, the bass still occasionally gets overwhelmed by their infernal racket. BRASH SPRAKASH! Whore whore whore. None of the songs have that EXPLOSIVE quality of the studio records (POW! again. Hi hi hi.), but it's still a great collection of some of the band's finest material culled from four different records. And better still, you get to hear Steve Allbeany say "1-2-Fuck-You!" -- not once, but many!

Some high pts. for fans of Big Butts:

fists of love - starts with a goofy wimpy "ah!" instead of the screams on the album. The guitars are a big scratchy mess, and the riff is completely lost! Either that or Steve keeps screwing it up. It doesn't sound right! (*eats Pledge of Allegiance*)

l dopa - "this is a song about sleeping sickness" he says. The middle part seems kinda directionless without the old woman wailing. (*smells shoe; curses God*)

passing complexion - WOW! He makes that cool noise LIVE! I guess it's just harmonics played really fast through that idiosyncratic guitar tone! (*falls asleep while driving; wakes up while jet skiing*)

dead billy - no keyboard! Bass plays that line, but the melody is mostly lost because the guitars just play a lot of noise. This song sucks on here. (*mistakes bed pan for dessert tray; fares poorly in mouthwash commercial audition*)

steelworker - sounds odd with two guitars, and this new guitar tone. Kinda swaggeringly played too. Still works, though the vocals sound exhausted instead of manic obsessive. (*bends over backwards to help neighbor; bends neighbor's daughter over table to help penis*)

fish fry - "this is a song about a murder at drive-in" he says. Steve keeps hitting the wrong chord after yelling, but what a great song! (*drinks Jack Daniels' whiskey; urinates on Jack Daniels' television; is asked to leave Jack Daniels' home*)

jordan, minnesota - hilarious high-pitched "ah!"s where the screech/squeals used to be. You'll laugh! No "fuck me daddy" vocals in the middle. Just a low-key "come here, do as you're told." Ends with feedback and scrapy guitar noises. (*mails $400,000 worth of cocaine to congressman with note reading "Enjoy the anthrax!"; is later chagrined to realize that flour might have worked just as well*)

So you see, I don't have to be in a good mood to pretend to be funny! Nor do you have to be high on PCP to pretend to laugh! So let's work together, friends, and make this the best Big Black album review ever. Okay, here we go:

When Santiago Durango formed Big Black, he decided to do it entirely on his own, HIS way. And that's just what happened. Nobody else was ever in the band, even though it meant that he had to run really really fast to play every instrument and sing during their live shows. But Santiago Durango was no ordinary man. He was from outer space, and he had sixteen arms and legs!

Reader Comments
Mark, you are correct about Passing Complexion (it's just the bottom string, harmonically played really fast in a very simple way, but it's quite tiresome to play it 600 times in a row and still sing the song the way they do), and I know I sent you this link before, but I will send it again so that readers can download it if they want...

Go to and scroll all the way down till you find "Passing Complexion". It's my HILARIOUS cover! And your readers will love it!
I just discovered Big Black's cover of the Mary Jane Girls' "In My House" - it was a 7" that came with the original PigPile. It's INCREDIBLE! Oh, I love Big Black.
I think you definately need a strong stomach to listen to this music, but why even bother with a no talent band like this one.
My favorite thing about this album is how Steve opens every song with "1,2, fuck you" and describes "Kerosene" as a song Jerry Lee Lewis wrote before he killed one of his many ex-wives"... other than that, I'd stick with the studio versions. I just listened to this album in a store once, didnt bother getting it. A live album isnt a real album anymore than a woman's a real person, after all. Still, if it's the only Big Black you can find, I suppose it serves as a good overview.

Keith Lundquist
Dave Riley was one of the greatest bass players of all time, it's a pity what happened to him.

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If you think Jordan, Minnesota sounds horrible, check out Mark Prindle's Record Review Guide!