Dude Incredible


Touch and Go, 2014


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Shellac’s albums have all the hallmarks of a side project: insular, a bit inconsequential, and a departure from the day jobs of the musicians making them. Still, such exercises can be fun for both artist and listener if done right…and this one is not.

Dude Incredible is the fifth album in 20 years from this trio, comprised of legendary producer and uncompromising old-school alt-rocker Steve Albini, producer/bassist Bob Weston and studio drummer Tom Trainer. It’s art rock in one sense, the kind of thing that fans of King Crimson, Tool and Mars Volta will enjoy, although it’s not quite that heavy.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The title track is fascinating, using a gut-punch riff Tool would be proud of as a foundation, then adding squalls of Sonic Youth-style guitars and a growled vocal that sounds like Neil Young at his lowest register. The song twists in several directions (with a bluesy Black Keys riff as an introduction to boot) but never loses focus; it is the most unique album opener you’ll hear in 2014, I’d wager. “Compliant” and “You Came In Me” are driven by Weston’s bass, pushed to the forefront as a lead instrument, with plenty of stop-start dynamics, offhand spoken words that don’t mean jack and prog-metal riffs galore.

Rather than hit the listener with an onslaught of noise, Albini is unafraid to space out the riffs over top of the rhythm section, or to stop the music altogether between each bar, which is a neat prog-rock trick but gets a little tiresome when you’re trying to get into the groove of a song. Both “Riding Bikes” and “All The Surveyors” fall prey to this trickery, the latter particularly irritating and clearly a chance for the trio to just piss around in the studio. As I said before, insular, inconsequential and sometimes fun.

“The People’s Microphone” briefly rights the ship with a bracing assault of rock before settling back into the awkward piecemeal Frankenriffs, and both “Gary” and “Surveyor” are more of the same, although the latter at least gets off the ground for a while.

Clearly, much of the riffing is indebted to Tool, with the noise-rock of Albini’s college rock days a swirling complement. The playing is good, especially Weston’s bass work. But the music rarely fails to grab the listener. Nerd rock like this also needs melody and charm (check out King Crimson’s Discipline for a master class in the genre) to be winning, making Dude Incredible only sporadically entertaining, if at least consistently interesting.

Rating: C-

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