Big Black

While punk rock was always supposed to be about pushing the envelope, few post-punk bands seemed willing to go quite so far to creatively confront their audience as Big Black. The group's guitars alternately sliced like a machete and ground like a dentist's drill, creating a groundbreaking and monolithic dissonance in the process. Their use of a drum machine, cranked up to ten and sounding a tattoo that pummeled the audience into submission, was a crucial precursor to the coming industrial music scene while creating a sound which was far more challenging and organic than what groups such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails would achieve with similar ingredients. Big Black's songs, which openly dealt with such topics as mutilation, murder, rape, child molestation, arson, immolation, racism, and misogyny, established them as a group that acknowledged no taboos; and while they didn't seem to be advocating the anti-social or criminal behavior they sang about, there was also a level of familiarity with their subject matter which made more than a few listeners blanch. Big Black was a band that went where few bands dared to go (and where many felt bands shouldn't go), and for good or ill their pervasive influence had a seismic impact on indie rock. At the same time, Big Black was a group who maintained firmly held ideals when it came to doing business; they paid for their own recordings, booked their own shows, handled their own management and publicity, and remained stubbornly independent at a time when many independent bands were eagerly reaching out for the major-label brass ring.

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