Thursday, May 9, 2024

RIP Steve Albini, Bob Avellini, and ELO guy

I know a lot of rock'n'roll hipsters like to proclaim the greatness of producer/musician Steve Albini, and while I can appreciate a certain rawness in music, his style bordered on overly abrasive - in both production and commentary - for me. Even when I was younger and way more snarky, Albini's snark was too much for me. For years, I thought he probably held back Nirvana's In Utero from being as great an album that I thought it could have been.

In hindsight, he probably made that band's farewell as great as it was supposed to be. But I’ll never be totally sure about that. Albini, who passed away at age 61 this week from a heart attack, worked with some of my favorite bands, including Pixies, the Breeders, Urge Overkill, Slint, King Kong, Superchunk, the Cribs, and even Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. But his work for all those outfits was oddly and consistently among my least favorite stuff by them all.

But come on, what kind of person do you have to be to turn on a band that made your name - Nirvana - by calling it "R.E.M. with a fuzzbox." I'm not sure if he meant that as an insult, but it actually sounds like the second-best thing to R.E.M., which to me would be a high compliment. I think I never forgave him for saying that one of my favorite album's, The Replacements’ Let It Be, was "a sad, pathetic end to a long downhill slide." If Albini's bands like Big Black and Rapeman could hold a candle to the innumerable great bands he loved to trash, then I might have taken him and his artistry a little more seriously. 

Also lost too soon at the age of 70 from cancer was Bob Avellini, who I profess to having been too young to see much at all on TV. But I still own many of his football cards. His biggest claim to fame may be that his 75-yard pass to Walter Payton was the legendary running back's longest career touchdown.

Another notable death this week was Richard Tandy, who was hardly Jeff Lynne in terms of importance to Electric Light Orchestra. However, notable about Tandy, who passed away at age 76, was that he rocked the protagonist's voice in perhaps my favorite ELO tune "Mr. Blue Sky." His wild keyboard playing helped anchor that song and many others with the band's signature Beatles-meets-disco brilliance.

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