Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Big Black

  • Racer-X [Homestead EP, 1984] A-
  • Atomizer [Homestead, 1986] B+
  • The Hammer Party [Homestead, 1986] B
  • Songs About Fucking [Touch and Go, 1987] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Racer-X [Homestead EP, 1984]
First two tracks are power packed if conventionally anarchic neo-no-wave hostility, though the guitar barrage keeps building. Second side is music to play loud when you feel like going out and stealing a pneumatic drill. Climax is a trash-compacted version of "The Big Payback"--James Brown, white-rage style. A-

Atomizer [Homestead, 1986]
Though they don't want you to know it, these hateful little twerps are sensitive souls--they're moved to make this godawful racket by the godawful pain of the world, which they learn about reading everything from textbooks to bondage mags. This is the brutal guitar machine thousands of lonely adolescent cowards have heard in their heads. Its creators deserve credit for finding each other and making their obsession real. But not for anything else. B+

The Hammer Party [Homestead, 1986]
One side the 1983 Ruthless EP Lungs, the other the 1984 Ruthless EP Bulldozer, and if you think Steve Albini is less than profound now, here's where you shore up your belief in progress. "Steelworker" presages "Deep Six"'s gothic fantasies about the working class (or is it just guys with muscles?). "Pigeons" is a cute bit about an oppressed teenager whose mom makes him kill feathered rodents. Beyond that it's sound and fury. B

Songs About Fucking [Touch and Go, 1987]
Anybody who thinks rock and roll is alive and well in the infinite variety of its garage-boy permutations had better figure out how these Hitler Youth rejects could crush the competition and quit simultaneously. No matter what well-meaning rockers think of Steve Albini's supremacist lies, they lie themselves if they dismiss what he does with electric guitars--that killdozer sound culminates if not finishes off whole generations of punk and metal. In this farewell version it gains just enough clarity and momentum to make its inhumanity ineluctable, and the absence of lyrics that betray Albini's roots in yellow journalism reinforces an illusion of depth--these are hateful and sometimes hackneyed, sure, but never sucker fare like "Jordan, Minnesota." A-