Thursday, 12 July 2007



This record arrived perfectly timed both personally and culturally. Basically 1000 Hurts represents what was going on at the beginning of the millennium, while anger was still stoked and the fear of 9/11 was yet to still take over. At this point we almost felt fearless and definitely capable in our desire to carry the flame in the name of independent rock and do so with a real snarl.

1000 Hurts is a harsh record. That is an understatement. Coming after Terraform here was a set of ideas with more focus and direction, a record that was ripe and had an audience aching to receive. The moment was still spiky and the individuals involved still had some fight to match their intellect.

Over the years I have tried to sell the idea of Shellac to metal heads as being the hardest music imaginable but never have I been quite able to snag the sale.

The album opens with its title and catalogue being read out. Everything about this package is made to look analogue and organic, especially the packaging that in a way looked straight out of the studio, straight out Abbey Road from its mastering. The vinyl box (no sleeve) alone was as huge a statement as anything. Like a fool when the record was released I ordered the CD version only to discover in a moment of depressed realisation that the LP came with a CD of the album inside. Luckily I got my order changed before it was despatched. This was the first time any such gesture was made, one that appeared to serve and display just how cheap and nasty the CD format is and how overpriced and overblown it must be if a band and indie label could include a copy on that medium for nothing. Needless to say we all were tickled and excited.

It begins with “Prayer To God” which is without doubt the most explicit and pummelling album opener in the history of record music. As to where these sentiments come from is plain terrifying as Albini takes up the mindset of the most bitter and scolded individual looking to take revenge on not only the man that stole his woman but the woman herself. Not since Rapeman had his words ever sounded so vindictive. To accompany such horrors and a raging chorus/mantra of “fucking kill him! Fucking kill him! Kill him, just fucking kill him!” is a jagged twang of a wooden sounding guitar being bent to the point of destruction.

The ride continues in a similar manner/mood/mentality/methodology as “Squirrel Song” begins with the declaration “this is a sad fucking song, we’ll be lucky if I don’t bust out crying” as the cymbals of Todd Trainor take a real battering in response. Are so many squirrels a hallucination? This ain’t no metaphor, goddam this is real.

“Mama Gina” follows sounding like some kind of horror story shanty, a detailed description of a death in the family and the response that it causes in the process. The winding guitar line sounds almost like some electric Hitchcock score, especially when Weston’s bubbling bassline comes to a boil. As the tragedy reaches tears the whole event kicks off and the unit fully explodes into action creating the kind of aftermath you would experience of a car crashing into an elephant. An elephant dancing maybe.

From hear the record falls apart with “QRJ” which feels like the stereo has slipped off its dial and fallen between stations. As Albini’s guitar begins to sound like a chiming Grandfather clock Weston takes centre stage scrapping away at what debris remains. The result is filler. A bridging track seemingly designed to lend the listener a migraine and disgruntled demeanour.

Things get back on track with “Ghosts” and another haunted escapade. Again Weston’s rules the roost for the early portion of the track before it gets reined back in with more descriptions of dancing and the expression that comes with. As the song builds tighter it begins to clobber all in its sight before stepping up a gear as the pace reaches some kind of celebration.

There is a self loathing tone attached to the opening of side two and “Song Against Itself” as Bob does the honours until Albini comes rasping in as another confrontational execution occurs. Despite this intrusion Weston still wins.

“Canaveral” is one of the more visceral and direct moments of the Shellac back catalogue. Putting himself in the place of a cuckolded husband again a pure hatred spews forth endeavouring to question and pummel an individual (“I won’t say his name”) encroaching negatively on/in the narrator’s life. Indeed “what you think could make him stick his cock in my wife?” These are some of the most clear and direct lyrics I have ever experienced leaving no room for confusion only the propagation of ideas and scenarios. Eventually the story ends with the suggestion human arson (“fertilise the rice in China with the cinders of his remains”) before a nasty bassline comes in as starting a new country (a cult) gets suggested with “enough stamps and money there and they’re all have Oswald’s face.” Just where are these ideas and concepts come from?

By this point if the listener does not have a headache the introduction of Todd Trainor to vocals is one designed to serve to hurt. As ever he sounds fucked up while probably still looking like Dot Cotton in the process. On “New Number Order” as multi tempo track plays out in the background he takes on the taste of actually changing the order numbers. This truly is a desire, statement and exercise far surpassing the skills of mere mortal men.

Tenderness returns to proceedings with “Shoe Song” and a track that always perversely reminded me of Slint. The apparent likeness for me comes in the rousing climax of the song coupled with the generally compassionate manner in which the vocals are shipped all culminating in a very “Good Morning, Captain” like “I miss you” bellow.

The record climaxes with Albini, Weston and Trainor calling you out. “Watch Song” is their fight song, complete with chops that sound like fist jabs and a bassline resembling a descending boot. I remember the first time I heard the band play this (ATP 2000) and at the time it thoroughly reminded me of “Kool Thing” as its entrance intro carries a similar kind of sequence. In a world of being passive aggressive the orchestration attached to this song thoroughly matches the emotions that come attached to such a state. As ever the track loops and lumbers its way to the finish, taking a break to stamp out some kind of fire held within. As with all good things they leave it to Todd to close things off.

A few months later I would be going through some kind of weird breakup/rejection and this record became my almost permanent soundtrack, the score to my snarl (a score that never got settled). I even scratched out a plan for a ten chapter novella based on these songs and indeed called 1000 Hurts. Later inspired I would also begin a list of 1000 Hurts for my fanzine No Pictures. This list never got finished.

This was how it was all supposed to turn out and be.

Shellac interview
Shellac live
Touch And Go

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