Lungs by Big Black
You probably know Steve Albini more for his "don't call me a producer" production work than his musical output, but neither are to be taken for granted. Albini's first band, Big Black, booked their own shows, sung about raping kids, made drum machines sound fucking scary again, and exposed a new generation of musicians to punk's promise of total DIY freedom. Once their lineup solidified with 1984's Racer X, Big Black burned white hot, but the beginning of their story started much differently, with an angry loser out of Montana, a Roland TR-606, and a 4-track.
It's easy to dismiss Lungs. Albini can't really muster the "yes, I speak from experience when I scream about kicking a girl's head in and dumping her body in a lake" fury of prime Big Black (though he sure tries on "Dead Billy"), and the guitars are pretty anemic. What Lungs lacks in overt aggression, though, it makes up for in stark isolation. The drum machine, Big Black's pummeling trademark, still pounds here, the heart and ribcage around the monologue about creepy-crawlies on "Steelworker". Albini sounds like he's on death's doorstep on "The Crack", and "Rip" (not "RIP", you monkeys) is a great graveyard-punk track. The sound quality is excellent too—for a home recording from the early 80s, you really can't complain. I'm certainly biased, given how Lungs influenced my own high school noise escapades, but I do think there's something to this, even if it's just crack fumes.
(Addendum: I highly recommend getting this one on vinyl if you dig it. What sounds a bit flat on my digital copy fucking tears out of the speakers on vinyl. Well worth it.)
Essential: "Live in a Hole", "The Crack", "Rip"
Non-essential: "Dead Billy"
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