Shellac tend to take their own sweet time making albums -- not because they're pretentious about their art, but because they're busy with their day jobs -- and as a consequence, when they do drop a new LP it seems like a real event among the sort of indie rock/math rock dudes who treasure the band's dark wit and masterful command of dynamics and instrumental interplay. So after waiting seven years, some folks might feel a tiny bit let down by Shellac's fifth full album, Dude Incredible, which runs a mere 33 minutes and doesn't have an epic-scale defining number in the manner of "The End of Radio" (from Excellent Italian Greyhound) or "Didn't We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are" (from Terraform). Dude Incredible does open with the impressive title cut, a taut but ambling rocker that follows a handful of thick-headed males out for bad adventures (sort of like a Big Black song, but with a greater distance from the subject matter) and skillfully turns on a dime several times, and "Riding Bikes" is a similarly effective and lyrically troubling song about teenage vandals. But most of the album is short on top-shelf material, and while Shellac have always taken a minimalist approach to their tunes, even by their standards "Mayor/Surveyor" and "Surveyor" feel like frameworks for riffs and not much more. But then again, songs have never been Shellac's raison d'être, and the qualities that make the band special are here in abundant supply -- the sharp, lean attack of Steve Albini's guitar, the rumbling bass of Bob Weston, solid and fluid at once, and Todd Trainer's drumming, rhythmically precise but expressive and imaginative. The members of Shellac have tremendous intuition in terms of how the pieces of their songs fit together, and simply hearing this band play this stuff, gracefully exploding like a string of firecrackers, is a very genuine pleasure. Ultimately, Dude Incredible is a good but not great album from an undeniably great band; it doesn't sound lazy, just short one or two top-rank songs that would bump its status up a notch, but it's clearly the work of as strong and interesting a band as you can hear these days.
|Label:||Touch & Go Records|