Friday, 11 October 2013

Top 102 Albums. Minus Ten. Atomizer

Top 102 Albums. Minus Ten. 
Atomizer - Big Black

This is an intense howl of disgust. It sounds like Giorgio Moroder producing Black Sabbath, the bastard progeny of Wire, Suicide, Gang of Four, Dead Kennedys and The Pop Group. It is a frighteningly cold, distant record, peeling the pie crust from the violent, idiot stew that bubbles under the thin glaze we call "civilisation".

Big Black's singer, Steve Albini has said that he first and foremost saw this as instrumental music and it is certainly the sound that hits first. It sounds like the guitar wires are about to get shredded and apparently  blood on the strings was an integral part of the Big Black live experience. Even the drum machine sounds like it's been shipping some serious steroid abuse.

Their next album Songs About F***ing was a greater commercial success but this one speaks more directly to me. It sounds less like they are aware of an audience and more like they are simply consumed by the music as they play it. Along with bands like Birthday Party, Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, Einstüerzende Neubauten and Fatima Mansions this expresses a sense of disgust with the trappings of our society that seems even more relevant today, when it seems things have moved a bit further down the slippery slope. Now clap!

The strange thing was that this disgust didn't seem paralysing, and it wasn't diluted by any attempt to find answers or explain. It just vomited societies worst aspects all over the kitchen floor and refused to clean up the mess.

The songs deal with issues like sexual violence, child abuse and in Kerosene, envisage self-immolation as the only exit from the awful constrained boredom of a small town life. Jordan, Minnesota, a howl of rage about a child abuse scandal in the town of Jordan, Minnesota could have been written about any number of towns in Ireland where children were treated as toys for the amusement of our moral guardians. Some art constructs a bridge between irreconcilables, some shows the chasm that has to be bridged. It's deep and wide and very, very dark.


  1. I listened to this back in the day. I've mellowed since and it's definitely not for me. Setting fire to oneself out of boredom seems a tad extreme. Also Albini produced/recorded Surfer Rosa yet he didn't rate the band at all. And then he goes and names his next band Rapeman. Seems a bit of a berk all told.

    1. It's not something I play too often but I still take it out every now and again. Don't think I'd particularly like Steve Albini although I'd like to have had him as a recording engineer. Never followed his music after Big Black, but I still find the three Big Black albums I have; This, Songs About ... and Pigpile some of the most extraordinary noise ever produced.