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Atomizer

Big Black

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Album Review

After countless rock and neo-industrial outfits attempted to one-up each other's levels of extremity over the years, Atomizer holds up extremely well. It's not every day that one hears a song considering self-immolation as "just something to do" or another that tackles the case of an alleged parent-child molestation ring from the viewpoint of the offender. Instrumentally, Atomizer is a wailing behemoth of assaultive Roland beats, Steve Albini and Santiago Durango's clanging and whirring guitars, and new member Dave Riley's lumberjack bass. Their musical invention went a couple steps further, most obviously on the warped-beyond-recognition guitars of "Passing Complexion" and "Kerosene." The latter is undeniably Big Black's brightest/bleakest moment, an epically roaming track that features an instantly memorable guitar intro, completely incapable of being accurately described by vocal imitation or physical gesture. It's also Albini at his most plainspoken and bleak: "Stare at the wall/Stare at each other and wait 'til we die." It's Big Black's "Light My Fire," literally. "Bad Houses" tops Killing Joke in affecting moodiness, serving as a perhaps unintentional reply to John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses." Both Albini and Mellencamp were commenting on the Midwest, so why not? Other points of interest include the demented, storming menace of "Fists of Love" and a live version of "Cables" that features an extended guitar wobbly from Albini. The record remains as horrifying as the day it was recorded. [Atomizer was released on CD as part of The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape. The mediocre, largely instrumental "Strange Things" was removed from the digital version. Touch & Go kept the original record in print on vinyl.]

Biography

Formed: 1982 in Evanston, IL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s

While punk rock was always supposed to be about pushing the envelope, few post-punk bands seemed willing to go quite so far to creatively confront their audience as Big Black. The group's guitars alternately sliced like a machete and ground like a dentist's drill, creating a groundbreaking and monolithic dissonance in the process. Their use of a drum machine, cranked up to ten and sounding a tattoo that pummeled the audience into submission, was a crucial precursor to the coming industrial music...
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