Stream Shellac’s Eerily Amazing Final Album To All Trains

Stream Shellac’s Eerily Amazing Final Album To All Trains

The timing is simply unbelievable. In March, the almighty Chicago power trio Shellac announced To All Trains, their sixth studio album and their first in a decade. Shellac have always been an unbelievably tight unit, and they’ve never had any member changes. You always got the sense that the three musicians were really talking to each other, and bassist Bob Weston and drummer Todd Trainer were equal participants in the noise that they made. But most of us still thought of Shellac as Steve Albini’s band and a key part of Albini’s legend. Nine days ago, Steve Albini died at the way-too-young age of 61, and there’s been a huge outpouring of love and gratitude since that news came out. Now, as scheduled, Shellac’s To All Trains is out in the world.

Shellac started recording To All Trains in 2017, and they played many of these songs live for years. Still, there were no advance singles from To All Trains, and I don’t know any critics who got an advance copy. The album is out on Touch And Go, the storied Midwestern indie that started putting out Steve Albini’s records in the mid-’80s, when he was in Big Black. Touch And Go stopped being an active label in 2009; as far as I can tell, To All Trains is the first new Touch And Go album since Shellac’s last record, 2014’s Dude Incredible. So this thing is essentially new to anyone who wasn’t in Shellac.

This is not a Blackstar situation. As far as anyone knows, Steve Albini’s death was sudden, and he couldn’t have known that To All Trains would stand as some kind of final statement. The album is short and muscular, 10 songs in 28 minutes, and it works as a sterling example of this band’s kind of apocalyptic rock minimalism. All three musicians are truly locked-in with one another, and the record sounds fantastic, especially when turned up loud. The legendary Albini drum sound is in full effect. I’m only on my second listen now, and I haven’t really parsed the lyrics yet, but Albini’s acerbic wit is still obvious: “I’m through with music from dudes!”

If To All Trains was just one last great rock record from a great rock band, that would be enough. But the last song on the album happens to be the one called “I Don’t Fear Hell.” One lyric: “Something something, and when this is over, I’ll leap in my grave like the arms of a lover.” (That’s not me being unable to discern a lyric. He literally says, “Something something.”) Another lyric: “I don’t fear hell. Their baseball team is undefeated.” One more lyric: “If there’s a heaven, I hope they’re having fun. ‘Cause if there‚Äôs a hell, I’m gonna know everyone.” Come on, man. That’s funny and heavy, and if I leave a final statement like that one before I go, I’ll feel pretty fucking good about it.

One funny thing about To All Trains is that you can now stream it on Spotify. In fact, Spotify now has the catalogs of Albini’s bands Big Black and Shellac, which was not the case when he was alive. As Brooklyn Vegan points out, Albini removed his music from Spotify in 2022, but it’s back now. Albini hated Spotify, and he wasn’t shy about it. But in a recent Wire oral history, Albini and his bandmates say that their plan was always to return the music to streaming services when To All Trains came out.

Stream To All Trains below.

To All Trains is out now on Touch And Go Records. Read our We’ve Got A File On You interview with Steve Albini here.

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