Atomizer (album)

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Big Black - Atomizer cover.jpg
Studio album by Big Black
Released 1986 (1986)
Length 37:24
Label Homestead
Producer Big Black
Big Black chronology
The Hammer Party

Atomizer is a 1986 album by the American punk rock group Big Black. It is their debut full-length album as all previous releases are EPs. The LP is accompanied by liner notes that explain the stories behind many of the songs. The album reached number 197 in the Billboard Hot 200 chart.[citation needed]

The most popular song on the album and possibly by Big Black, "Kerosene", has a shaky guitar line that gives it an odd appeal and a slower rhythm than most Big Black songs. It discusses being bored and then as a result wanting to be set on fire. Violent lyrics such as these can be seen throughout Big Black's entire discography.[1]


One song from the album, "Big Money", was released as a B-side to the "Il Duce" single prior to the release of Atomizer. Homestead Records also issued "Big Money" and "Il Duce" the A-side of a 12" record with three live songs on the B-side (including the live version of "Cables" that would appear on Atomizer) with the agreement that the 12" be used for promotional purposes only. The label sent the promo 12" to radio stations, then sold extra copies outside of Big Black's native Chicago, hoping the band would never find out. When they did, Big Black left Homestead and signed to Touch and Go Records.[2]


In the year after Atomizer's release, Big Black recorded their 4-song Headache EP and released it with a sticker that bore the words, "Warning! Not as good as Atomizer, so don't get your hopes up, cheese." The same sticker also appeared on Sonic Youth's EP Master=Dik.

CD release[edit]

Atomizer was compiled on Compact Disc, along with the Headache EP and "Heartbeat" single, as The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape, which omitted the instrumental "Strange Things", as well as the artwork and liner notes from the original records. Instead, Steve Albini expressed his general dislike for the CD format in the CD's liner notes, saying, "This compact disc, compiled to exploit those of you gullible enough to own the bastardly first generation digital music system, contains all-analog masters. Compact discs are quite durable, this being their only advantage over real music media. You should take every opportunity to scratch them, fingerprint them, and eat egg and bacon sandwiches off them. Don't worry about their longevity, as Philips will pronounce them obsolete when the next phase of the market-squeezing technology bonanza begins."[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/4.5 stars[4]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau B+[6]
Spin 9/10 stars[7]

The album received positive reviews and is regarded as a big influence on the genres post-hardcore and noise rock. The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[8]


Publication Country Work Accolade Rank
Alternative Press[9] USA Atomizer Top 99 Albums of '85 to '95 #11
Spin[10] USA Atomizer 100 Alternative Albums #83
Spin[10] USA Atomizer Top 100 (+5) Albums of the Last 20 Years #92
NME[11] UK Atomizer The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time #372
Pitchfork[12] USA "Kerosene" The Pitchfork 500 -

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Big Black

No. Title Length
1. "Jordan, Minnesota"   3:20
2. "Passing Complexion"   3:05
3. "Big Money"   2:30
4. "Kerosene"   6:05
5. "Bad Houses"   3:10
6. "Fists of Love"   4:21
7. "Stinking Drunk"   3:27
8. "Bazooka Joe"   4:23
9. "Strange Things"   3:54
10. "Cables" (Live) 3:09


Big Black always credited Roland along with the band's members, though Roland is a brand of drum machine and not an actual person.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Azerrad, Michael (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981–1991. New York: Little, Brown and Company. p. 314. ISBN 0-316-78753-1. 
  3. ^ Albini, Steve (1987). The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape. Chicago: Touch and Go Records. pp. CD liner notes. TG94. 
  4. ^ Kellman, Andy. "allmusic ((( Atomizer > Review )))". Allmusic. Retrieved March 17, 2010. 
  5. ^ Brackett, Nathan. "Big Black". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. November 2004. pg. 69, cited March 17, 2010
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Big Black"., Retrieved on March 17, 2010.
  7. ^ Spin [1] Retrieved on June 6, 2015.
  8. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ a b [3]
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ [5]
  13. ^ Albini, Steve (1986). Atomizer. Homestead Records. pp. liner notes.