Shellac, Iona Fortune: Manchester Academy 2
Michael Edward joins a shawl of sound engineers as they swarm to witness Shellac at the Manchester Academy 2.
Tonight saw noise rock legends Shellac descend on the Manchester Academy 2 to an anticipant crowd of punk rockers and what we can assume were sound engineers.
The band has a storied history, especially Steve Albini, who notoriously engineered pretty much anything good with guitars on in the late 80s and 90s (the big one being Nirvana‘s In Utero, if you don’t know, now you know), as well as playing in his infamous, and even more acidic band Big Black. Bob Weston brings an impressive CV as well, playing in Volcano Suns and the legendary Mission of Burma. The trio is completed by the formidable precision of drummer Todd Trainer. Needless to say, there’s a wealth of underground pedigree on the stage.
Some of it was reminiscent of David Bowie‘s Moss Garden, and other parts Tim Hecker‘s Virgins, though the room seemed rather befuddled and in some cases nonplussed to be presented with an ambient artist before a noise rock show.
The first run of songs features fan favourite and the first of the three we recognise, My Black Ass, whose staccato riff instantly gets the blood pumping. It’s followed by a short song with some incredible guitar playing featuring a completely unexpected little finger tapping move we’ve never seen done before. In the parlance of the kids, it was sick.
Throughout the set the band move between the sheets of noise and their looping, overlaying, minimalist rhythmic patters that sometimes recall Steve Reich, and a love of pure rock and roll. One song mid set genuinely swings like deconstructed Chuck Berry, and another calls to mind Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well. On more than one occasion we were tempted to throw up the devil horns.
Their stage patter was a delight, as Bob found time to take questions from the audience, not once but twice. One audience member was insistent on knowing what the drum kit was, and was greeted with the weary sarcastic answer of a band made of two thirds engineers who are most likely sick of this shit by now. Another asked for a Stooges cover, to which Bob replied “I only know how to play Shellac songs, sorry“. Other highlights included a tense drum solo from Todd, whilst Steve and Bob hid side stage, only to both jump back to their microphones in a highly entertaining fashion.