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Reviews

Superchunk
I Hate Music Nick Hutchings , September 9th, 2013 04:29

After the mournful preamble of opener 'Overflows' the tenth studio album by Superchunk truly roars into life on second track 'Me & You & Jackie Mittoo' with the emphatically negative war cry "I hate music, what is it worth?" accompanied by their trademark bouncy chords of punky power pop.

And although the album title I Hate Music also suggests that this is the sentiment that pervades a band twenty years on from their post grunge peak, in their own words "they’ve got nothing else so here it goes!" As someone who is also two decades on from my pogo-ing nadir I’m happy to come along for the ride again. OK, I roughly know how the Superchunk ride goes and like a roller coaster whose twists and turns you’ve become de-sensitised to it doesn’t stop you getting back on. Band leader Mac McCaughan’s plaintive cries on 'Void' hit me in the pit of the stomach like they did back on 1991’s No Pocky For Kitty and the momentum is unrelenting. And I know they do still care even if they protest too much, that much is clear from their enquiries of "How’s it going at the front of the house" in song 'FOH'.

In fact if they are resigned to their fate of plucky underdogs, much like Mudhoney’s low expectations and low yield, they have done very nicely thank you. Also they are resolutely unapologetic about it, particularly on the song 'Staying In', underpinned by almost hardcore pace and uncharacteristic defiance. After all, they are in their 40s, they are comfortable enough in their own skins to know that 'Staying In' is the new going out and they’re not missing out... and they don’t care what you think about it.

Basically, they’ve grown up, I’ve grown up, and I’ve grown to love them more. This is no Who, who hoped they’d die before they got old but didn’t. This is a band who were "tossing their seed around" on an eight track while I had a naïve one track mind. They were 'Hyper Enough' to accompany my exuberance as a runner at MTV. They spent ten years at the turn of the century with their heads down getting on with other jobs and responsibilities, albeit good ones like running Chapel Hill’s Merge Records and being a drum for hire in the case of indie rock’s wittiest man at the traps, Jon Wurster. But after cleaning out their closets and "bullshit from the bottom drawer" they embraced their own DNA and came back in 2011 with the at times truly joyous and totally righteous Majesty Shredding.

I Hate Music comes three years later, which constitutes profligacy after the gap between albums eight and nine, and is a slightly more tempered counterpoint, a shade to Majesty’s light. The "whoa whoas" this time pepper more esoteric questions like: What makes people tick? What’s life all about? What is love? as opposed to: Where’s my next kiss or pay cheque coming from? While they search for these answers to some of life’s bigger questions they’ve decided they’re going to enjoy doing it. The line "some people go through life, all they see is red lights, but we’re not going to live like that" strikes a chord in album closer 'What Can We Do'.

Superchunk got the wisdom from a life spent embarking on flights of fancy out of flight cases and plugging into amps and the feedback from fervently loyal fans to know that being in the band is a pretty cool life. Far from being self-proclaimed slack mothers their work ethic and life ethos is to be admired, if not from afar, but from the front row of a sweaty mosh pit as if your own existence depended on it. 

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