It's not surprising that the first Shellac album in seven years is extraordinarily entertaining and mind-blowing, but its concision and more accessible production choices are a bit of a head-turner for fans. On records since their 1994 debut At Action Park, Steve Albini, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer have indulged themselves with the occasional sprawling song ("Didn't We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are," "The End of Radio") or near-theatrical comic pieces ("The New Number Order," "Genuine Lulabelle") and each has had its own reward.
The band's sense of empathy, great storytelling, interpersonal politics and black humour are not necessarily uncommon in post-punk noise-rock bands, but Shellac's path is likely the most distinctive and emulated one. Dude Incredible has no shortage of compelling narratives within the clever lyrics: "Compliant" is a stark, smart account of OCD, while the infectious title track is about group dynamics (and monkeys) and another classic example of Shellac making a stellar rock song while Albini uses the word "fuck" like it's a god damned Ginsu knife.
Albini's broken buzzsaw guitar tone has mellowed over the years; its chingy-ness remains abrasive and he wrestles crazy sounds out of it on catchy riffs for "You Came in Me," and there's even some '70s ZZ Top pulsing through "The People's Microphone" and "Mayor/Surveyor." But with Trainer's unholy drumming and Weston's precise bass parts, it's all unmistakably, gloriously Shellac. The trio are playing together better than ever, even capturing some of the power of economy that their earliest music commanded with grit and grace and thunder and lightning. Dude Incredible seriously fucking rules dude. (Touch and Go)