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Music: Big Black

"1, 2, 1, 2 Fuck You"

Post-Hardcore band formed by Steve Albini in 1981 and dissolved in 1987. Became popular within the underground music community for their distinctive "clanky" guitar playing, the use of drum machine instead of a drum kit (predating its use in Industrial Metal), and their dark and explicit lyrical content.

According to Steve Albini, their name is "just sort of a reduction of the concept of a large, scary, ominous figure. All the historical images of fear and all the things that kids are afraid of are all big and black, basically."

Not to be confused with Christopher "Big Black" Boykin from Rob & Big.

YMMV tropes here.

Members
  • Steve Albini - Vocals, guitar, Drum programming (1981-1987, 2006 Reunion)
  • Santiago Durango - Guitar (1983-1987, 2006 Reunion)
  • Dave Riley - Bass Guitar (1985-1987)
  • Jeff Pezzati - Bass Guitar (1983-1984, 2006 Reunion)
  • Roland - Drums (1981-1987, 2006 Reunion)

Discography

Studio Albums
  • Lungs (EP) 1982
  • Bulldozer (EP) 1983
  • Racer-X (EP) 1984
  • Atomizer (LP) 1986
  • Headache (EP) 1987
  • Songs About Fucking (LP) 1987

Compilations
  • The Hammer Party (Combines Lungs and Bulldozer on LP, also throws in Racer-X on the CD version) 1986
  • The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape (Combines Atomizer, Headache, and Heartbeat; CD Only) 1992

Live Albums
  • Sound of Impact (Official Bootleg) 1987
  • Pigpile (Live Album + VHS) 1992

Tropes

  • Affectionate Parody: On their "He's A Whore / The Model" single, both sides of the album art parody of the cover art of the albums the songs are originally found on. The "He's A Whore" side has the members of Big Black dressed like Cheap Trick and posing similarly to them on their debut self-titled album. Likewise, on the back side the band parodies the cover art to "The Man-Machine" by Kraftwerk.
  • All There in the Manual: The liner notes provided background information on many of the songs. This was removed for The Rich Man's Eight-Track Tape, a CD compilation combining Atomizer with Headache and the "Heartbeat" single. This was in line with Steve Albini's dislike of CDs and digital recordings.
  • And I Must Scream: The song "L Dopa"'s lyrics don't seem to make much sense until you read what they actually mean in the album liner notes... Don't get it? It's about a girl that got sleeping sickness (encepalitis lethargica) in her teens and woke up as an old woman after being given L-DOPA. She wanted to die, and she was not allowed to.
    daisy went to sleep at 15 and woke up many years later. she, being perfectly sensible, decided she ought to die, since she had literally slept away her entire productive life. the medical profession, in her absence, had decided that all life must be preserved, regardless of worth to its owner, and prevented her from performing the only noble act she was capable of.
  • Animesque: The cover of Songs About Fucking.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Pavement Saw."
  • Badass Boast: The spoken word segment of "Bad Penny."
    I think I fucked your girlfriend once
    Maybe twice, I don't remember
    Then I fucked all your friends' girlfriends
    Now they hate you
  • Breakup Breakout: Steve Albini has remained a prominent figure in the underground music scene after Big Black's breakup, both as a musician and as a recording engineer who has worked with many notable alternative bands like Nirvana, Pixies, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
    • Then again, his Breakout is somewhat expected, considering part of the reason why the band broke up was so Santiago Durango could pursue his law degree, Dave Riley's music career was cut short by a life-altering stroke, and Roland was a drum machine. The only other former Big Black member who has remained active in the music scene is original bassist Jeff Pezzati, who was already a member of his main band, Naked Raygun, before joining Big Black.
  • Companion Cube: Albini's Roland TR-606 was nicknamed Roland and credited as such under "Drums".
  • Contemptible Cover: Invoked on "Songs About Fucking" and "Headache".
  • Cover Version: Several, including Kraftwerk's "The Model," Wire's "Heartbeat," and Cheap Trick's "He's A Whore."
  • Creature of Habit: A very dark version of this trope drives "Bad Houses."
  • Darker and Edgier: Big Black's music opted to become this to Heavy Metal and Hardcore Punk.
    "Heavy metal and stuff like that didn't really seem intense to me, it seemed comical to me. Hardcore punk didn't really seem intense most of the time most of the time it just seemed childish. I guess that's how I would differentiate what we were doing from what other people were doing."
  • Filk Song: Racer-X, about Speed Racer
  • Gorn: The cover of the 1000-copy limited edition of the Headache EP. It is a close-up of the head of a suicide victim who Ate His Gun and split his head in half. Only a mini body bag was appropriate to package it.
  • Incendiary Exponent: "Kerosene" is about someone applying this to sex.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Part of Steve Albini's signature sound is putting the vocals further back into the mix than most bands, often burying them under the guitar. This makes the already near-unintelligible yelling on heavier songs that much more difficult to make out. It doesn't help things that he never printed lyrics in the liner notes of any of his band's albums and instead merely described what the song is about.
    • Annoyingly, whoever did transcribe the lyrics online and let them spread from lyrics site to lyrics site simply put "mm mm" over words they couldn't decipher. Seriously, go look up the lyrics to any Big Black song with the vocals low in the mix. You'll find whole sentences replaced with "mm mm mm mm mm".
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Not incredibly apparent on the actual song titles, but their second and final LP was named Songs About Fucking. And boy, was it an appropriate title.
  • Intercourse with You: Thoroughly subverted; When you see an album called Songs About Fucking, you'd better believe that they're not pulling any punches in their lyrics.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: "Fists Of Love"
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: A solid 10, occasionally drifting into 11.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: A hard 8 at their softest, mostly 9-10.
  • Murder Ballad: "Fish Fry," and "Kasimir S. Pulaski Day" to an extent.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: "Bad Houses" sports one of the least explicit lyrics in the band's catalogue, yet is deeply unsettling for precisely that reason.
  • Parental Incest: "Jordan, Minnesota". With a five-year-old.
    SUCK DADDY!
  • Pass Fail: "Passing Complexion"
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • Signature Style: Heavy, distorted guitars that play a blend of punk and noise rock backed by a drum machine that adds a vaguely industrial flavor with lyrics usually about dark subject matter.
  • Small Town Boredom: "Kerosene" and "Cables" are both about the extremes that people go to in combatting this.
  • Take That: This excerpt from The Rich Man's Eight-Track Tape, aimed at CDs and digital recordings.
    You should take every opportunity to scratch them, fingerprint them and eat egg and bacon sandwiches off them.
  • Truth in Television: Many of the songs were based on events Steve Albini encountered in his youth living in the Midwest.
    • "Cables" is about two of his classmates in high school who would go to slaughterhouses for entertainment.
    • "Pigeon Kill" is about a town dealing with a massive pigeon infestation using poisoned corn.

    Noise RockBlack Flag
The Mars VoltaPost-HardcoreBilly Talent
Pat BenatarMusic of the 1980sThe Birthday Party
Biffy ClyroAlternative IndieBilly Talent

alternative title(s): Big Black
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