Shellac

The End of Radio

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There are few men in the history of rock music who have less business being called sentimental than Steve Albini. Any man who would title an album Songs About Fucking or name one of his bands Rapeman would seemingly rank low on the warm and fuzzy scale. But for a few brief moments, Albini proves he has a heart after all on The End of Radio, an album that gives authorized release to two BBC Radio sessions he played with his band Shellac. The first part of this album preserves a four-song set from July 1994, recorded and mixed in a single day at the BBC's Maida Vale studio for John Peel's show on Radio One. Cut shortly before the release of Shellac's first album, At Action Park, these tracks capture early Shellac in fine fettle, limber and hard hitting on "Spoke" and "Crow" and exploring the spaces within their sound on "Canada" and "Disgrace." But the second part of the album, from a December 2004 performance recorded live to stereo (with an audience on hand) at Maida Vale, is the work of a more seasoned and intuitive group, and one with noticeably greater heart and soul. John Peel died a few weeks before the performance, and Albini begins the show by murmuring, "We are dedicating this session, and probably the rest of our career, to John Peel." This being Shellac, the loud stuff is very loud indeed, but this band had learned to stretch out and toy with the structures of their songs, and the intuitive communication and spacious dynamics between Albini's guitar, Bob Weston's bass, and Todd Trainer's drums yield remarkable results, especially on extended numbers like "The End of Radio" and "Billiard Player Song." This is certainly smart and terse enough for math rock, but with a beating heart deep within its body. When Albini improvises "John Peel was a hell of a man" in the former number and extemporizes about a variety of human struggles in the latter before declaring, "A lot of people say she's crazy…but I don't think she's crazy, not in any way that matters -- I think she's all right," he dips his toes into something like empathy, something he's not known to bestow upon his characters. In this context, it's unexpected and just a bit moving, and while the performance is already excellent, preserving a superb live band on a good night, the flash of warmth in their flinty sound makes this something special. Both performances are not hard to find in bootleg form, but the clarity of the remastering on The End of Radio makes this a must for fans of Shellac. It would be nice if we could get another live set from this trio that was recorded less than 15 years ago, yet as an artifact of the Live Shellac Experience and a sincere tribute to fallen comrades, this is as good as you could hope for.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
02:03 Amazon
2
02:28 Amazon
3
04:45 Amazon
4
02:22 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
05:39 Amazon
2
09:21 Amazon
3
02:50 Amazon
4
06:12 Amazon
5
05:05 Amazon
6
09:10 Amazon
7
04:27 Amazon
8
07:35 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick