Live sightings of the members of Chicago's Shellac -- guitarist Steve Albini, bassist Bob Weston, drummer Todd Trainer -- are about as common as for Tom Waits. And Shellac's tour itinerary roughly mirrors Waits' recent U.S. trek through the South en route to the Midwest. Expect a pummeling mélange of Fugazi-like syncopation, seismic low end, angular shards of guitar, and Albini's harsh, deadpan vocals -- perhaps even the stray between-song Q&A session. An uncommonly tuneful new number, "Steady as She Goes," has been a concert highlight and a surprise hit video on YouTube (culled from the DVD Burn to Shine 2: Chicago).
Shellac recordings are equally infrequent: just three proper studio albums since the band formed in '92. Old-schoolers tend to prefer 1994's At Action Park for its similarity to Albini's old band Big Black, and 2000's jazzily corrosive 1000 Hurts was equally in your face. But 1998's Terraform, with its dubby textures and psychedelic frissons of fretwork, gets the nod here. In another Waitsian twist -- as the Bard's tour was also timed not to coincide with Orphans, his forthcoming release -- a new Shellac LP is ready for issue after the tour. Don't count on journalists to keep you apprised, however; Shellac doesn't service the media with free albums.