Search This Blog

Loading...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Big Black: Sound Of Impact

BIG BLACK: SOUND OF IMPACT (1987)

1) Ready Men; 2) Big Money; 3) Elephant Joke?; 4) Cables; 5) Yanomamo Indians; 6) Pigeon Kill; 7) Passing Complexion; 8) Crack Up; 9) RIP; 10) Jordan, Minnesota; 11) Firecrackers; 12) Cables; 13) Pigeon Kill; 14) Kero­sene; 15) Bad Penny; 16) Deep Six; 17) RIP; 18) Rama Rama.

An «un-unofficial bootleg»: the album was originally released on a UK indie label rather than Big Black's own Homestead Records, and whatever was the reason for that, legal trouble was avoided by leaving not only the band's name off the packaging (which consisted mainly of reprints of black box transcripts, hence the «title»), but even the song titles (currently restored, the 18 tracks were first denoted by completely different monikers, although retaining some con­nection with the originals — for instance, ʽCablesʼ was ʽKill The Cowʼ, and ʽPigeon Killʼ was ʽBird Thangʼ). Since then, however, the record has occasionally been re-released, and generally features as an integral part of Big Black's discography.

And for good reason, too, since Big Black are one of the few artists in the whole punk/post-punk pool that really deserve to be heard live. Pigpile gives a better general impression of a classic Albini show, but Sound Of Impact, recorded in two different locations (which is why some of the tracks double each other), is a bit more of a «glorious mess», a little less loud and a little more prominent on stupid, but memorable Albini jokes. Anyway, even despite the fact that they mostly play the same songs on both albums, owning both is not an exercise in redundancy.

The funny thing is that it takes a good listen to a live Big Black album to properly understand that the band does pay a lot of attention to proper mixing and even melodicity of sound on their studio records — in the live environment, Albini's and Durango's guitars omit or blur some of the subtle twists of the originals (e. g. ʽDeep Sixʼ), greedily going for more noise, power, and energy, just the way it befits a good old-fashioned rock'n'roll performer. But where they lose in complexity and subtlety, they expectedly gain in blowing your brains out. With a little extra distortion on the «clang» tone, the songs are transformed into walls of ferocious white fire — if the bass is at re­gular volume, as on ʽKeroseneʼ or ʽPassing Complexionʼ — or black fire, if the bass is turned all the way up, as on ʽBad Pennyʼ or the second of the two ʽPigeon Killsʼ.

In between the firethrower blasts, Steve entertains the not-too-grateful listeners with «shocking» stories, such as the one about the mouse with the BMW and the elephant with a big dick (ʽEle­phant Joke?ʼ), or one about certain violent and sexist customs of particular Indian tribes (ʽYano­mamo Indiansʼ), or introducing ʽBig Moneyʼ by saying "we stole it from Rush", or finding some other way to come across as a shock-oriented prankster. It does add some personality to the show, but what sort of personality is up to you to decide. I'm still trying to figure out why his unfunny jokes do not annoy me — whether it is a Monty Python sort of way, with absurdism compensa­ting for the occasional unfunniness, or maybe I'm just a covert fan of artistic rudeness.

Of the setlist, the only big surprise is the closing track, a cover of an obscure composition by the short-lived post-punk band Rema-Rema (mostly famous for its guitar player Marco Pirroni, who would later become a close associate of Adam Ant) — nothing special about it, and it was pro­bably played for an encore to confuse the audience even further; then again, like every respec­table indie prophet, Albini did have this hunch for dragging out obscurities (being as he was, to a large extent, an obscurity himself). But this record is not about surprises, it is about putting the «Big» back in «Black», if you get my drift, and it does that fairly well and it gets a thumbs up and you can't get it anywhere legally, not even on iTunes, so Steve Albini welcomes you to break the law in this particular case. 

No comments:

Post a Comment