Perspective | Steve Albini was a gravitational force in the American underground

You had to take an old industrial elevator up one flight to get into this Baltimore warehouse where the show was happening in October of 1998, and even as the groaning machinery lifted your body upward, it still felt like you were sinking.

When the doors slid open, Shellac was on the other side, with their big amps and scary intellects, and if you failed to realize you were now in the deep end, you should have stayed home. The group’s leader, singer-guitarist Steve Albini, was up onstage with his guitar strapped to his body at the waist like a tool belt, instantly making all electric guitar players in the history of rock-and-roll look like schoolchildren with knapsacks slung over their shoulders. Unlike Chuck Berry or Greg Ginn, Albini refused to be weighed down by his instrument, clutching the neck of his guitar the way a killer might carry a blade in a knife fight. Once he started playing, he made the fight existential, slashing through the fraudulence of the world. I remember being 19, trying to withstand that decimating sound, trying to be the opposite of fraud.

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