Autobiographical Order No. 96: Big Black – Songs About Fucking

Back when my wife and I were dating early in the ’00s, she was living in Irvine and I was in San Diego. It was a long-distance relationship, if one where the distance wasn’t really that long, but it meant doing a lot of driving on the weekends. Still, there were some upsides to it, primarily the fact that Irvine is much closer to Los Angeles, and we’d often go up to LA for shows at the El Rey or the Troubadour or the Wiltern, and we saw a lot of good stuff on those jaunts.

I defended Los Angeles for a long time, simply because there were cool venues and museums and good restaurants. But over time I’ve really come to harbor an intense loathing for LA, largely because any place that makes you spend that much time in your car can’t possibly be worth it. The last few times we made the trip up, we were practically seething by the time we got there. Four hours is too much time to be, as Sting once put it, packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes.

If you’re in LA, however, you make the most of it. And though we haven’t done this recently, I try to make the effort to go to Amoeba anytime I’m there, and do some serious record shopping. I’ve gotten some gems there over the years, and Big Black’s Songs About Fucking is one of my favorites. It’s a fun album to bring up in conversation, because the sheer profanity of it tends to get people’s attention in an unexpected way (much like I do when talking about another favorite band, Fucked Up). But Songs About Fucking is gnarly in pretty much every sense. There’s very little, if any, low end on the album — Steve Albini favorited deep lows and piercing highs, and because of that, Big Black went down in history as one of the most intense sounding bands of the post-punk era.

Albini has also long been an advocate of vinyl as a format for listening to music (when the plant/engineers do a good job of it, that is) and Songs About Fucking actually sounds amazing on LP. That’s important to remember, because it sounds sort of terrible on earbuds. Most albums do, but you really miss out on the dynamics in a digital format, where here you get the widescreen scope of it, and it’s kind of stunning in its punchy, industrial punk sound.

It’s actually a pretty great album to listen to while in Los Angeles, because the intensity and noise of the album is kind of cathartic — though you can’t listen to vinyl in your car (maybe you can… I can’t). I’m heading back up there soon, maybe I should bring a ripped copy of Songs About Fucking to make the commute a little more tolerable.

Rating: 9.5

Sound Quality: Great

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