Shellac’s first three singles (especially Uranus) suggested that Steve Albini was moving into more subtle and dynamic territory after the musical and lyrical brutality of Big Black and Rapeman, but the group’s first full-length album, At Action Park, proved that the misanthropic noisemaker responsible for Atomizer and Songs About Fucking was still very much present. “My Black Ass,” “Dog and Pony Show,” and “Il Porno Star” revealed Albini was still obsessed with sex, violence, and anti-social behavior, and the hard, metallic guitar figures of “Pull the Cup” and “Song of the Minerals” were as uncompromisingly abrasive as ever, with Albini’s trademark engineering (dry, stark, and crystal clear) making the rough edges all the more punishing. But At Action Park does reveal a band more musically intelligent and imaginative than Big Black, and while it hits a good bit harder than the 7″ers that preceded it, Shellac is still significantly more concerned with the space between the notes than any of Albini’s earlier projects. Just as importantly, in drummer Todd Trainer and bassist Bob Weston, Albini had found a human rhythm section that lived up to his exacting specifications, with Weston adding both melody and force with his thick, meaty tone and Trainer displaying both precision and an expressive abstraction behind the kit. And while Shellac’s idea of a good time would still make most folks uncomfortable, there’s a dark but genuine humor to a few of the cuts (especially “Il Porno Star”), and “Song of the Minerals” suggests Albini may actually feel compassion for one of his protagonists. At Action Park made it clear that Steve Albini was slowly but surely maturing, while stubbornly refusing to compromise in the process.