Mac McCaughan seems really, really tired of being angry and frustrated all the time. This is arguably the most relevant sentiment on wild loneliness, Superchunk’s most recent and contemplative album to date. Who among us, after four years of the Trump administration and two years (and counting) of the greatest public health crisis in a century, is not exhausted? If there is a common thread between so many memes, blog posts and expressions of mental health issues that so many people turn to daily in an effort to find common ground and inspiration, is that everyday life has been a grueling ordeal for some time. now.
In this vein, songs from the band’s 12th album (not counting essential compilations throwing seeds and music accessory) speak to the listener in a direct way, even for a romantic with a heart on the sleeve like McCaughan. After 2018 What a time to live gave out such a cry of anger, perhaps the change of pace — slower tempos, sunnier melodies, thoughtful themes — is inevitable. Being pissed off can feel good (and cathartic, when paired with such barn-burning songs), but it’s harder to embrace those emotions in the long run. At the end of the day, when you’ve exhausted your anger, what’s left? It’s there that wild loneliness Between.
The difficulty of processing uncertain emotions — not the “Oh, I’m so passionate, help me” boredom of your average pop song — is the album’s driving theme. It clearly announces itself as the day on the lyrics of the title song: “When there’s nowhere left to grind your ax / how can we even think about it?” Then, a fucking sax solo breaks out. I bet the old school fans of the band didn’t see it coming back when they banged their heads on “Slack Motherfucker”, but it suits Superchunk – McCaughan has always sounded like a weary soul, and with this collection of songs about finding meaning in what comes after anger, his worldly sensibilities find an ideal match.
As soon as they exit the soft door, the group announces their return to the softer territory of Here to shut upas “City Of The Dead” kicks off with strings, shakers and one of the smoothest, simplest beginnings of a ‘Chunk record since “End of the century dream.” As distorted guitars ring out after the first line and McCaughan sings “So many things you can’t undo / Well you can only push,” the album brings sweetness to counter the clouds. dark.
From there, it’s a series of sometimes catchy, sometimes melodious numbers that work in tandem to convey the themes of struggle, overcoming isolation, and finding something better. The “Endless Summer” rocker, with its tongue-in-cheek reveal of climate change concerns (“I’m a broken record, I’m a bummer all year round”), is about as classic a Superchunk riff as you can get. get, at least in terms of the band’s last-day production. “On The Floor” then brings home the other half of the musical equation, still upbeat but muted, as piano adds a bit of glitz and circumstance to the mix, along with guest vocals from Mike Mills of REM.
Sometimes the quieter numbers almost enter the territory of McCaughan’s solo work in Portastatic, such as on “Set It Aside”, where the singer accompanies his voice on the piano over a simple rhythm, or even the beginning of “If You’re Not Dark” closer. ‘, which slowly turns into an anthemic sonic output, aided by Sharon Van Etten’s backing vocals and majestic riffs that underscore a push to acknowledge the more pessimistic sides of ourselves, even as we strive for something. moreover (“If you’re not dark / At least in a small part / What are you on?”).
That doesn’t mean there are not songs with muscle. “Refracting” almost functions as a sarcastic counterpoint to the beauty of the title track, with Jon Wurster’s trapping beating the highlights as McCaughan confesses, “I try not to judge / But it’s so fun and so distracting .” And as always, the band have a penchant for stretching the boundaries of their sounds, adding a complex range of horns to “Highly Suspect,” which merges a Foolishriff of the time to a musical back and forth between triumphant cacophony and mannered arrangements.
So many bands settle into a rut as they mature, but what has always kept Superchunk so invigorating over the years is how the music and lyrics have continued to evolve in a way fitting for an indie-rock band whose sound has served as a model for a million people. imitators. You can throw a stone and hit a dozen bands that were influenced by Superchunk, although some younger bands don’t necessarily realize where the bands they are draw from the first was inspired, but the fundamental style of this iconic four-piece never stood still. It never feels like the band is trying to recreate their old records. Instead, he seeks to insert small changes and musical tics, ways to find something new in the long-running sound that came before, without losing the North Star of his genre-defining style. It’s a wild achievement.