Big Black – Bulldozer [EP]

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Bulldozer is Steve Albini’s second release through Big Black, and it’s miles ahead of Lungs. For starters, there’s an actual amp for the guitar instead of an old TEAC augmented by a Casiotone, which made Lungs sound like a cheap-ass record on Fisher-Price. He’s a got a real drummer on the beats too via Pat Byrne, with the exception of ending track “Jump the Climb.”1 Hell, just the fact that Bulldozer is more than Albini fucking around over Spring Break is an improvement. The tracks here are constructs instead of whatever got jammed out in a few hours in Albini’s living room; Bulldozer is the sound of an actual band.

The guitars have this unique metallic scraping sound, achieved by Albini and fellow guitarist Santiago Duragno notching metal clips into their picks. It works well, and occasionally produces a buzz reminiscent of fellow post-hardcordians Hüsker Dü. Bulldozer is not nearly as industrial as Lungs (owing to the production quality), with considerable more alternative rock influence on tracks such as “Cables” and “I’m a Mess.”Jeff Pezzati’s bass guitar isn’t bad, but poorly mixed on “Pigeon Kill” and “Jump the Climb” – this is definitely the work of a band who is still finding their footing. The percussion is just as simple as it was on Lungs, but at least it isn’t Roland playing – for the most part.

Lyrics aren’t too insane this time around. “Pigeon Kill” is about killing pigeons2 and “Jump the Climb” is about killing humans, but they’re both rather bland and easy to miss the darker meaning. “I’m a Mess” is a self/women-hating nightmare, but ultimately has a stronger bark than bite and isn’t as *gasp*-inducing as the band must’ve hoped. “Seth” is the only track that actually goes a little crazy, with a long spoken word rant from the perspective of a hyper-nationalist who hates communism, Judaism, and any speck of color on one’s skin. It’s legitimately off-putting, and is the first real example of Big Black’s ambiguous “wait, are they serious or are they just making fun” posture.

Lungs should be skipped by all but die-hard post-punk/noise rock fans. Cables, on the other hand? It ain’t too bad. With progression like this in under a year, it’s not hard to see why Big Black became such an influence in post-hardcore and alternative rock.

1. Cables – (2:40) – ★★☆☆☆
2. Pigeon Kill – (1:47) – ★★★☆☆
3. I’m a Mess – (1:56) – ★★★☆☆
4. Texas – (4:02) – ★★★★☆
5. Seth – (3:32) – ★★★★☆
6. Jump the Climb – (2:58) – ★★☆☆☆

Overall: ★★★☆☆

1… which is credited to “Roland,” their name for the drum machine. Kind of endearing.
2Surprise!

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