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Big Black - The Hammer Party (Cover Artwork)

Big Black

Big Black: The Hammer PartyThe Hammer Party (1992)
Touch and Go Records

Reviewer Rating: 2.5


Contributed by: TheTommunistThe Tommunist
(others by this writer | submit your own)

So yeah, producer extraordinaire Steve Albini was once in a post-punk band called Big Black, who soundly shattered eardrums and perceptions of what music can and should be. The result was something very different, very gritty, and very abrasive. Being so, Big Black's music is something that many peo.
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So yeah, producer extraordinaire Steve Albini was once in a post-punk band called Big Black, who soundly shattered eardrums and perceptions of what music can and should be. The result was something very different, very gritty, and very abrasive. Being so, Big Black's music is something that many people will dismiss as horrible noise. The Hammer Party is a collection of Big Black's first three EPs. As is such, let's break it down by each EP.

Kicking things off is the Lungs EP (tracks 1-6). Lungs was recorded by Albini in his living room on a four-track. At this point, Big Black was just him and Roland, the ever-present drum machine that the band used throughout its career. Things are rough here, with Albini talking in a heavily distorted voice over Roland's mechanical beats. Albini plays the guitar, but it sounds like a distant, high-pitched mechanical squeal rather than a musical instrument. "Live in a Hole" contains a very discordant trumpet line, adding to the abrasive nature of the music.

Tracks 7-12 make up the Bulldozer EP. Now Big Black is a full band. Albini still plays guitar, adding Santiago Durango on guitar, Jeff Pezzati on bass, and Pat Byrne sharing drum duties with Roland. The sound now is much fuller, but still things sound like an empty factory room. "Cables" is aptly named; the bass sounds like thick metal cables being struck, and the guitars continue to sound like some sort of horrible laser squeal. Albini ditches the processed voice and snarls along to the music in a gritty, slightly nasal voice.

The last six tracks make up the Racer X EP. The band remains the same here, with the exception of Roland now being the only drummer. This EP maintains the sound of the first two EPs, but the sound quality is (slightly) better. Roland sounds more like a real drummer than a machine, which is leaps and bounds above his work on Lungs. Guitars sound more like guitars here, rather than industrial machines. Overall, Big Black loses a bit of the harsh mechanical noise and comes together a bit more as a band.

Collectively, the music of Big Black alternates between slow and brooding, and fast and violent. It's all gritty and dark, with nary a lick of melody to be found. It's a bombardment of noise, with Albini squealing along. He talks more than he sings, and every song is a story. He tells stories of steel workers and Texans, Racer X and some dude named Seth. The lyrics are far from PC, but Albini's intent is to shock.

Naturally, production values are low, so the sound quality is fairly bad. In the end, the only way to describe Big Black's sound is a violent barrage of sound. This is not something anyone can pick up and enjoy, and it lacks the listenablilty of other post-punk bands, but if you feel up to the challenge, check it out. It is a document of the early developments of post-punk.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (October 15, 2005)

Rock on sista Willmutha!

Anonymous (October 14, 2005)

When I first heard about this band,it made me very happy! Well I'll say! . Bigness and Blackness,MMmmm MMMM, I'm. like Star Jones down there, wanting to go DOWNTOWN! Like I said, Bigness and Blackness, everything I've dreamed in a man.
But, low and behold it was a skinny geek-y white man with a calculator watch! I felt ripped off, you know like blue balls. I was hurt. and then I heard a rap radio station where talked about niggas and being hard, that made me fall in love with men all over again, sweet child, vapors came over me, and then I saw how 50Cent wears 4 pairs of drawers and them pants low... MMmmm... Willmutha gotta break off a piece of dat Kit Kat.. Lord, brothers ands sistas of the church I was healed, until this wound got re-opened here on punknews.org. So fuck you Jesse, fuck you Big Black. I want my cock dark! -Will_

Anonymous (October 13, 2005)

Well it's kind of because you quoted the wrong thing... You quoted some guy telling me I rap's use of the word "nigger" (though I've never heard a rapper use that word).

Jesse, I respect you (for whatever that counts) as a reasonable, usually intelligent guy, even though I disagree with a lot of what you say, but your retorts have been kind of immature lately.

-Will

lushj (October 12, 2005)

It's funny that he's pissed at me when he really should be pissed at Will...

Anonymous (October 12, 2005)

Bashing Jesse is not cool. Sorry bro,if other folks here can't make a decent debate about Big Black, they resort to petty name calling.

lushj (October 12, 2005)

"Posted by Anonymous on 2005-10-11 15:51:29
Shut the hell up Jesse... So what if Big Black/Steve Albini wasn't as PC as you MRR and Bay Area goose-step liberals force punk to be? Big Black was groundbreaking..."

??? I like Big Black, and I thought Will's comment about the n-word was one of the stupidest comments I've seen here. I think you mean to attack him, NOT me.

P.S.- Good luck with the reading comprehension lessons, anonymous pussy.

Anonymous (October 12, 2005)

steve albini was actually from a small town in montana i believe. he only attended northwestern in the suburbs.

and the stories in his lyrics are from the point of view of the narrator, not him. so he doesn't believe these ideas, he only writes about them.

and his use of electronics in punk music was innovative, even if it was less than successful at times. no matter the quality, he did accurately communicate the mood in all of big black's songs

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

Stop bashing Steve Albini. If you don't like Big Black or Steve, fine, I'm sue there's some pop-punk future sellout bands that would just make your day bright.

Big Black was break through band for alot of people. I happen to like Steve's delivery. And the fact he didn't have a drummer was great, he just used a Roland. The man built his own amps. On every album, he improved on recording and producing. Big Black deserved atleast an A for effort. Steve is a socially backward guy and brilliant.

Steve has also gone out of his way to help smaller bands. Did you read the article he wrote in MRR about why a band shouldn't sign to a major label?
Remember when the Butthole Surfers sued Touch n' Go? Steve stood behind Touch n Go. He also doesn't collect royalities from any album he's worked on.

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

"Out of the countless assholes who post "supporting" this band by bashing other people, only one has made any sort of point.

I think Ian was right when he said the Chicago noise thing was "a little too much about chomping cigars and eating barbeque." It's the truth. Steve Albini is a suburban baby. The "underbelly of America" thing got old on the second song and this music needs to have strong lyrics to entertain me. Trying to sound scary is just pathetic. It's not art, it's image. If I thought murdering women and being a sociopath was hip, I'd like this band. Until that day, they can suck a bag of dicks, because compared to their peers, they're shit.

-Will"

will, youre a joke.

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

Out of the countless assholes who post "supporting" this band by bashing other people, only one has made any sort of point.

I think Ian was right when he said the Chicago noise thing was "a little too much about chomping cigars and eating barbeque." It's the truth. Steve Albini is a suburban baby. The "underbelly of America" thing got old on the second song and this music needs to have strong lyrics to entertain me. Trying to sound scary is just pathetic. It's not art, it's image. If I thought murdering women and being a sociopath was hip, I'd like this band. Until that day, they can suck a bag of dicks, because compared to their peers, they're shit.

-Will

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

8 points cause you just cant beat naked raygun

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

Shut the hell up Jesse. Shouldn't you be busy doing Jello's laundry? So what if Big Black/Steve Albini wasn't as PC as you MRR and Bay Area goose-step liberals force punk to be? Big Black was groundbreaking. It wasn't pop-punk, that seems to be the only format of punk that's acceptable where you're from.

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

Best bands ever.

Anonymous (October 11, 2005)

This album was in a south park episode once. "The Red Badge of Gayness."

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

"No way. The recording quality is fine. The lyrics are assinine shock-value schlock. The guitars are okay. But Steve Albini's contrived persona ruins it all.

Using "nigger" doesn't make you edgy, it makes you fucking stupid.

-Will"

wow, way to get it fella. Big Black's lyrical content was always preoccupied with the American underbelly. it was Steve Albini speaking through characters.

one of the best post-harcore bands of the 80's.

stevejonestherealbones (October 10, 2005)

is this band named after my dick HAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAH

i'm white

- jones the bones

- stevejones8770@yahooo.commmmmmmmmm

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

anyone else wanna fuck the girl on the cover of songs about fucking, even thought its a drawing and you still only see part of her face and no body whatsoever? i sure do

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

good stuff, but big black's weakest material. "rich man's eight track tape" has the atomizer LP, which i think is their strongest album. "songs about fucking" is just essential. this one is good, just not AS good.

david_arquette (October 10, 2005)

Or the best.

lushj (October 10, 2005)

"I bet you fucking love hip-hop and their use of the word nigger."

That's gotta be one of the stupidest comments ever on this site.

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

I bet you fucking love hip-hop and their use of the word nigger.

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

will,

saying ". This band will always be for a certain type of Suburban hipster that will never understand good music." doesnt show that you are hip/cool/into good music, it makes you fuckin stupid

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

No way. The recording quality is fine. The lyrics are assinine shock-value schlock. The guitars are okay. But Steve Albini's contrived persona ruins it all.

Using "nigger" doesn't make you edgy, it makes you fucking stupid.

-Will

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

Well its good to see all this "image" bullshit being put to rest from the cool white belter Will.

Anyways these guys were always incredible, but definitely a required taste for the bandâ??s â??shittyâ?ť recording quality. Steve is an excellent producer, but didnâ??t really find his notch until Shellac. Not to diminish any of these songs they are still great, but I think Big Blackâ??s later material like â??Song About Fuckingâ?ť are much better than this collection of EPs.

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

Big Black was fucking genius, if you don't get it, you never will.

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

actually i only posted twice in a row.

lushj (October 10, 2005)

Big Black as an image band? Maybe if the image is to be one of the craziest sounding guitar bands of their time, yeah. For an image band of the 1980s, I think you mean Sigue Sigue Sputnik or Duran Duran.

P.S.- To today's ears, this isn't as out there as it was when it came out. I like "Atomizer" better.

Anonymous (October 10, 2005)

Okay, Mr. Imapostthreetimesinarowsopeoplethinkimmorethanoneloser.

-Will

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

just what we need, another holier than though music elitist to speak opinions stated in the most condescending possible way and act as though they are gospel.

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

you're seriously going to have to come up with a better argument than that on why this is an "image" band and why they're "corny".

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

will,

lighten up. some people like music regardless of the stereotypical things you think. i have seen you call people out on here for their "sexist" comments and stuff like that, but you seem to generalize and stereotype just the same. i guess its ok since you never do it about minorities, only about fans of certain music.

grow up

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

I find Steve's fondness for serial killer stories just corny and annoying. Listening Big Black is like listening to some goth nerd talk out his ass about how cool he thinks blood and gore is. This band will always be for a certain type of Suburban hipster that will never understand good music.

-Will

Dante3000 (October 9, 2005)

Were they NOT an image band? Or NOT NOT an image band.
-Dante
Though the review would make it appear that they were a Touch and Go band.

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

this was NOT an image band

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

big black was not an image band at all. the shit they were doing circa atomizer had nothing to do with image and had everything to do with a really original sound and very, very strong song-writing.

also the rich man's eight track tape is way better than this. if you want a big black history lesson, get that instead.

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

after reading all the dumb shit comments, a big black review doesnt belong on this shit site. an image band? hahahah your a stupid fuck to ever state that and i know for a fact your music collection is full of shit image! big black was anything but image. for example see the live show they released before talking out your ass. steve would of kicked your ass than got high and laughed about how the blood flowed from your ears. big black is punk, was punk and anyone from chicago should thank them greatly.

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

Big Black owned, even this early stuff. You, the reader, should keep in mind that this reviewer gave 4.5 stars to Greg Graffin's solo album and 4 stars to !!!.

GlassPipeMurder (October 9, 2005)

hahahahaha, best comment ever.

Dante3000 (October 9, 2005)

I knew a guy named Big Black...He said he had the "party hammer"...I assure you that thing brought no party. All it did was make you unable to sit down the next morning...I hate Big Black.
-Dante
P.S. Score is for having to to use those silly ass donut rings to sit on.

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

I wouldn't really call this "early" post-punk...

Big Black were always kind of annoying... They really don't have strong songs, it all revolves around how "cool" and creepy you think the singer is. Guess what- he isn't.

This was just an image band.

-Will

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

Get Songs About Fucking or The Rich Man's Eight-Track Tape over this.

Get ...Eight Track... just for 'Jordan, Minnesota'. That's some angry shit, right there.

AlmostPunkEnough (October 9, 2005)

i'm big dick black, i cum ten times a day!!!

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

best to come out of Chicago are Naked Raygun & Effigies, but this is also great

corpseofmymotivation (October 9, 2005)

Is this anything like Jehu?

TheOneTrueBill (October 9, 2005)

This is easily an 8 or a 9. The only thing that keeps it from being a 10 is that Lungs is kind of weak. But the rest of it is my favorite work from Big Black. Steve Albini is one of my heroes.

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

im only into pre-punk.

-sirens

Anonymous (October 9, 2005)

Best band to ever come out of chicago. Lc

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