Big Black
Guy Lochhead, 17/03/12
Super-noisy underground rock band formed by nerdy analogue ball of hate Steve Albini, active from 1981-1987. The band’s sound is loud and obnoxious, characterised by unrelenting drum machine beats and jagged guitars (achieved by Albini using a notched metal pick and his understanding of production). They aimed to provide a more hardcore alternative to hardcore, playing fast and loud and without any lyrical taboos. They insisted on control of all aspects of their existence, booking their own tours, paying for their own recordings, and refusing to sign contracts. They broke up in 1987. In the liner notes to ‘Pigpile’, Albini summed up the band’s approach thus “Treat everyone with as much respect as he deserves (and no more), Avoid people who appeal to our vanity or ambition (they always have an angle), Operate as much as possible apart from the “music scene” (which was never our stomping ground), and Take no shit from anyone in the process”. There is much to respect in Albini’s approach to things. I’m a big fan. Big Black is significant as his first major project and because of its context in the bloated, confused underground rock scene of the time. This band were exemplary in retaining their principles in all parts of what it means to play rock music. I will include the LP version The Hammer Party, which collected the band’s first two releases. Although this is not a band particularly suitable for kids, I think they need to be included as an example of proper punk.

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