Recorded at a London date on the band's final tour and released five years after the fact, the set list of Pigpile draws on the band's entire career and as such, provides a good equivalent to a greatest-hits set played live. All three members play with the brisk efficiency that defines their studio work, with the relentless drum machine stomping all before it. The taste of the band's live work from Atomizer, a take on "Cables," only scratched the surface when it came to such stuff. Hearing Albini's often distorted or mixed-down vocals clearly for once is a definite change, and while he spends time in the liner notes dismissing overt speculation about his lyrics, there's no question that he had a knack for putting together the right images with the music. Much of the time everyone and everything crackles with an energy that's awesome to behold; "Passing Complexion" kicks in with pure electric fire and smash, only to get even more wound-up with Albini's barked, gasped singing. The middle of the album has the strongest section overall, with Songs' "Bad Penny" and "Pavement Saw" followed by an explosive rip through "Kerosene," introduced as "a song Jerry Lee Lewis wrote before he killed one of his wives." Albini's full line notes offer up wry song-by-song commentary, as do the two studio albums, plus a brief history of the band and their overriding philosophies. However contentious a figure Albini may be, his words here actually amount to some of the sharpest, smartest advice any young band could ask for, steering clear of his often hyper-abrasive pronouncements elsewhere.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett