Big Black

Sound of Impact

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Sound of Impact is an authorized bootleg released by an offshoot of the UK indie label Blast First. (The first release on this label was a legendary Sonic Youth bootleg.) Originally released in a numbered limited edition of 1000 copies, it was later reissued twice in unlimited editions. Because Big Black were signed to Homestead Records at the time, none of the issues feature the band's name on the minimal packaging, which instead consists of transcripts of the black box recordings of crashed aircraft, all of them ending with the title phrase, and the song titles were deliberately misidentified on the inner sleeve. The contents, recorded live in 1986 at three Midwestern dates on the Atomizer tour, are prime Big Black, though; always a mercurial live band that was capable of some really terrible shows, the group is in excellent form here, blasting through an Atomizer-heavy set list ("Cables," "RIP" and "Pigeon Kill" all show up twice, the last including a hilariously paranoid screed from Steve Albini at the end of one go-round) that captures the group at their songwriting and performance peak. Fan favorites "Jordan Minnesota" and "Kerosene" get particularly bruising treatment, and the album ends with a punky version of UK proto-goths Rema Rema's "Rema Rema," a staple of their live set around this time. The surprise for those familiar with Big Black only by Steve Albini's famously acerbic personality is how relaxed and funny he is, telling jokes and making self-deprecating banter between these bursts of unvarnished aggression. Sound of Impact is essential for fans and enlightening for newbies.

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