Shellac has always operated under the premise that it can and will do whatever the hell it wants. On their long-delayed fourth album, and their first since 2000's 1000 Hurts, renowned indie engineer and guitarist/vocalist Steve Albini, engineer and bassist/vocalist Bob Weston, and drummer Todd Trainer make sure that the "we can afford to go our own way" philosophy is more apparent than ever.
Like 1998's Terraform, which opened with a minimalist 12-minute song, Greyhound (named after Trainer's dog) tests listeners' patience immediately with the eight-and-a-half-minute "The End Of Radio." A staple of the group's performances for a few years, it has a hoarse Albini repeatedly shouting "Can you hear me now?"—a phrase Verizon all but owns—over a loose, almost nonexistent song structure. Even odder and longer is "Genuine Lulabelle," a nine-minute epic featuring voiceover narration by Internet cartoon character Stong Bad, a woman speaking rapidly in Spanish, and the words "all aboard, riding a train covered in cum / pulled by her caboose."
But Greyhound pulls nearly as much as it pushes away. "Kittypants" and "Paco" are downright poppy (relatively speaking), "Elephant" ends with Weston's Joy Division-esque bass, and "Be Prepared" boasts a triumphant bridge. Shellac has always sounded wound-up, but Greyhound has a loose, almost improvisational minimalism that straddles the line between engrossing and off-putting. Shellac owns that space, and it'll do whatever the hell it wants with it.