Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
Digging For Something
Review of Superchunk’s Majesty Shredding
Jason ArthursIf you’ve not yet read Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small, then get up right now, go out, buy a copy, and read it cover to cover right now. It’s okay, I’ll wait. And when you’re done, we can discuss plans to road trip down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to give Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance big hugs, because the story of Merge is as much the story of them, and as such, is the story of Superchunk.
And though they’ve almost always coexisted, the arcs of each story don’t necessarily run concurrently – Superchunk’s heyday was the 1990s when they were one of the prototypical college rock bands laying the blueprint for what the kids now call indie, and though they’ve been around over 20 years, Merge only really became a powerhouse label in the past eight or nine years, after Superchunk went on hiatus following 2001’s perhaps prophetically titled Here’s To Shutting Up. If that were the final word, from the band, it would have been a fitting one as it found the once fuzz-coated pogo-tastic rockers in a relatively gentler frame of mind and while their songwriting was still in top form, it felt like they were looking forward to a break. And a break they took, with McCaughan taking his solo project Portastatic into rockier, full-band realms accompanied by guitarist Jim Wilbur, drummer Jon Wurster becoming both Mountain Goat and comedian and Ballance shepherding Merge to greatness. If the ‘Chunk were done, they should have had no regrets.
But sometimes a hiatus is actually a hiatus. Although they’d done sporadic shows since taking Shutting Up off the road, starting with the Merge XX anniversary celebrations last Summer, Superchunk began edging back into active status and following the release of the Leaves In The Gutter EP last year, there came word of a new album, their first in almost a decade. That record – Majesty Shredding – arrives next week and when I say it sounds just like a Superchunk record, I mean that with the highest possible praise. It fuses the pop perfection they’d reached with Shutting Up with a consistent level of energy, excitement and volume that you’d have to go back over 15 years in their discography to match. From the whine of feedback that opens “Digging For Something”, Shredding collects everything great about all that is Superchunk into eleven great, pogo-worthy tracks that individually might not measure up to the very best songs the band has ever written but as an album is as satisfying a listen as anything in their discography. It’s probably unrealistic to hope that this will be the start of a run of equally good records every year or two, but considering that I wouldn’t have even expected this record to exist as recently as a year ago, it’s kind of the best gift ever.
Majesty Shredding is streaming at NPR a week ahead of its release. I had previously hoped that the September 23 date in Montreal would imply a Toronto one the following night, apparently it’s not to be. I finally got to see them at SxSW in March and will do so again in a month at Matador 21, but still have my fingers crossed that a local show will appear on the books sooner rather than later.
Stream: Blonde Redhead / Penny Sparkle
And out this week and streamable is Interpol’s latest Interpol. JAM, The National Post and Spinner have conversations with guitarist Daniel Kessler, presumably conducted when they were in town last month.
Stream: Interpol / Interpol
Video: Deerhunter – “Helicopter”
Rolling Stone takes Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy back to the days of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for some insight on what that tumultuous period was like while Muzzle Of Bees has assembled a tribute album to Summerteeth recorded by all Wisconsin artists.
JEFF The Brotherhood are in town on October 20 at The Horseshoe.