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  • 17. Don Caballero - American Don (2000)
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17. Don Caballero - 'American Don' (2000). Before their messy breakup, this Pittsburgh trio pretty much ran shit in the math-rock scene that dominated the turn-of-the-century underground. Their final real album was the one where they turned down the distortion and turned up the quease factor, pushing their grooves up against each other in all sorts of wrong-sounding ways. It's tense, uncomfortable music, and if anyone knows how to record tense, uncomfortable music, it's Steve Albini.

Infamously cantankerous studio rat/national treasure Steve Albini doesn’t like to be called a record producer. He prefers the term “recording engineer.” That’s a dry, clinical term for what Albini actually does, but it makes sense that he’d prefer to be seen that way. Over the past few decades, Albini has overseen the creation of countless numbers of recorded artifacts. And even though he’s been an outspoken opponent of the major-label system (and of other underground-rock heroes), he’s known to work with just about anyone who requests his services, whether it’s a major-label juggernaut like ’90s radio-grunge rulers Bush or the grimiest indie band you never heard of.

This week, Cloud Nothings released the visceral, scraping, full-blooded, Albini-recorded Attack On Memory, a truly great LP and a welcome reminder of the sort of visceral shit that was so common on the ’90s rock underground. That album recalled any number of past Albini-recorded efforts. And so does Ugly, the forthcoming Screaming Females album, which Albini also recorded and which also kicks all kinds of ass. Given that Albini is having a banner year so far, we thought it’d be fun to honor some of the other records that Albini recorded. Click through the gallery for our picks and rationale. And in the comments section, tell us that we were idiots for neglecting Silkworm or Urge Overkill or Pussy Galore.

[Photo by Abbey Braden @ ATP NJ]

Comments (81)
  1. Rapeman’s “Two Nuns And a Pack Mule” is better than any Shellac album, and I’d take A Minor Forest’s “Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996)” or Slint’s “Tweez” over The Wedding Present or that Mogwai album or Palace Music or PJH any day. Not bad though.

    • No on Rapeman being better than any Shellac album. Have you heard At Action Park? “Crow” is Steve Albini’s best song behind “Kerosene,” and “Jordan, Minnesota.”

      Even though Rapeman had personnel that later joined the Jesus Lizard, who I like better than Shellac, “At Action Park” features the best rhythm section around, equally hypnotizing and brutal. Hell, 1000 Hurts is better than Two Nuns, just listen to “Watch Song.”

      I may be a smidge biased because I play drums, but THOSE DRUMS!!!

  2. Magnolia Electric Co., “Josephine”, please. Good move with that Mogwai jam though.

    • I’d actually go for the far superior (in material imho) Songs:Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co., the last Songs:Ohia before the name shift, the production is stellar, and quite a departure from the kind of band Albini was producting at the time.

  3. Omitted MONO’s “Walking Cloud…” or “You Are There”? for some reason.

  4. Pleasantly surprised to see American Don
    Unpleasanly Unsurprised to not see mclusky

  5. Silkworm.

  6. “My Father, My King” is still the only song that has made my jaw literally drop when I saw it performed live.

    Best Mogwai song hands down.

  7. No Slint? The sound of both of their albums always astounded me.

  8. can i get a fuckin list? i dont have time to flip through a picture book right now

  9. It’s a hard call putting In Utero over Surfer Rosa, but great list. Gave me a few albums to listen to this week that I forgot.

    • I didn’t see In Utero in there.

      Brainiac’s Hissing Prigs in Static Couture was partially produced by Steve Albini.
      McLusky Do Dallas should be in there.
      Two Nuns and a Pack Mule
      Pussy Galore – Dial M for Motherfucker (I hope someone here has that album)

      Oh and you forgot Bush, Chevelle, and that Cheap Trick reunion album. How could you?

      • Whoops, it was #1, as it should be. Surfer Rosa is slightly uneven when compared to In Utero. Everyone has personal favorites from Surfer Rosa, so I’m sure to offend some here, but Gigantic isn’t that great and Tony’s Theme is “meh” in my opinion. Now I’m going to hide in a corner.

      • Oh yes on Dial M. Play it Bob!

  10. I expected this to be “Razorblade Suitcase” 20 times.

  11. The omittance of After Murder Park by The Auteurs invalidates the rest of this list.

  12. Y’all heard “Ugly” already? Where is THAT Premature Evaluation?

  13. Missing Transaction de Novo and Magnolia Elec. Co, but otherwise it’s a good list.

  14. No Razorblade Suitcase? What the shit kinda list if this?

  15. Maybe not the biggest name on the list of Albini-recorded albums, but The Forms have always been one of the most underappreciated bands in my opinion. Even Steve said so once, which is big of him to say typically he doesn’t get too involved with who he’s recording from what I’ve read with Cloud Nothings and Screaming Females’ experiences.

  16. Mclusky Do Dallas!

  17. Journal for Plague Lovers is incredible, and really should be on this list. One of the Manic Street Preachers finest albums.

  18. Much respect to this man…

  19. I have a soft spot for his work with Failure, even if neither Comfort nor Fantastic Planet really deserve to be on this list. Fantastic Planet, in particular.

  20. While “Kerosene” is probably the best song he released with Big Black, I think Songs About Fucking is the better overall Big Black album. Everything just clicks much better — the songwriting, the intensity, the production, etc.

  21. Nina Nastasia’s “The Blackened Air” should sneak onto this list somewhere.

  22. This might be an unpopular one, but The Frames – “For The Birds” is one of my favorites of his. I also agree that McClusky – “Do Dallas” should be on that list.

  23. No love for Weiland’s “Happy in Galoshes”?

  24. Seriously though: Helmet’s “Meantime”. A genuine watershed of an album, even if Helmet didn’t end up aging particularly well.

    Now let’s do the same list, but for Bob Weston.

  25. Those two Electrelane records he did are incredible.

  26. Where’s Canada by Loraxx? Just kidding, no one knows who that is.

  27. Nina Nastasia should be on this list.

  28. Did albini produce Speedking or is it just that James Murphy took his recording techniques from Albini? The Fist and the Laurels sure sounds like it was recorded by Albini.

    Someone go listen to Speedking.

  29. Great list overall, though I think the second Big Black LP should’ve been swapped for “Atomizer.” Also I can honestly see myself swapping “Surfer Rosa” for “In Utero,” that album had me fall in love with drums in a way no other album possibly could.

  30. Steve Albini did not record the version of Boxcar included on Jawbreaker’s “24-Hour Revenge Therapy”. It was re-recorded upon arriving home from tour, before the record was released — same with “Condition: Oakland”.

    Albini’s version can be found on the internet. It sounds a lot looser and quite a bit slower.

  31. Haymarket Riot album “Endless Bummer”

  32. After Murder Park – The Auteurs. Their best album by far and one I still listen to regularly.

  33. Great list, but surprised by the inclusion of Yanqui U.X.O., as I thought Albini’s production was the weakest thing about it; it just doesn’t put chills up the spine the way the rest of GSY!BE’s catalogue does.

  34. I’m guessing Steve regrets his appearance in this gem (same with the other special guest):

  35. “In Utero,” “Rid Of Me,” “Pod” and “American Don” means this list is quite acceptable. I wouldn’t have put “Surfer Rosa” on it, but people love the Pixies, so it makes sense.

    Were I putting the list together, it would have included Mono’s “You Are There” and Zeni Geva’s “10,000 Light Years” (although Man or Astro-Man’s “Experiment Zero” is awesome, too).

    Too much to think about right now.

  36. Wasn’t “At Action Park” recorded by John Loder and not Albini?

    • Neither, Loder did mastering.

      Good point though. It was actually recorded by Albini’s old friend Iain Burgess, in part if Burgess’s studio in France. But Albini probably still had more control on the recording than anyone else in the room.

  37. Sadly overlooked anything by Electrelane – on an epic dark stripped back more cinematic Breeders vibe. But the list is quite ’90′s centric, suggesting the writers age ; )

  38. I really have grown to love last Stooges album he did. Go pick up “The Weirdness” if you don’t have it.
    P.S Weedeater’s “Jason the Dragon” is another gem by the hand of Albini.

  39. You already know you done fuuuucked up by excluding Silkworm. Shame.

  40. No Mono either huh? The work he did on that is pretty amazing. Recorded live with a full orchestra. Man is fantastic.

  41. The Forms – Icarus? I thought you cared.

  42. Worth this 3rd mention; Steve’s work with Electrelane is quite good. “The Power Out” is overlooked a bit.

  43. Yes yes yes and yes for The Wedding Present and The Breeders LPs, they sound like no other records. Drums are simply amazing.

  44. In Utero is SO good. It’s timeless, just like OK Computer and The Downward Spiral etc.

  45. Where are The Auteurs? After Murder Park should have been at the top of this list.

  46. Distortion Felix——– Selected————————–Distortion Felix
    I’m An Athlete————–for——————————-Distortion Felix
    Distortion Felix———–The Breeders—————–You Are
    I’m An Athlete——————by—————————-Welcomes
    Distortion Felix—————–ATP————————Green Army Man


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