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Ears & Fingers 8/22/13

by Jason Leger

Superchunk – ‘I Hate Music’

“I hate music. What is it worth? Can’t bring anyone back to this earth or fill in the space between all of the notes. But I’ve got nothing else, so I guess here we go.” If you have learned anything about me over the past few months of this column, I hope it has been that I’m a huge fan of simplicity and minimalism. The less complex music comes across to the listener, the easier it is for me to stomach. I haven’t always been this way, but I’m getting old and I just don’t have the time anymore.

With this is mind, it’s probably easy for one to see why the new Superchunk album, “I Hate Music” is so vividly appealing to me. Superchunk are indie rock veterans who at this point, 23 years after the release of their first album, seem to be at the top of their game. This long-player will be the second the band has produced since returning from a nine-year hiatus in 2010 with “Majestic Shredding.”

Any real knowledge of the band and its members will reveal how glaringly ironic the title “I Hate Music” really is. Even just taking an outsider’s look at singer Mac McCaughan’s life, his mass of output between two bands—Superchunk and Portastatic, as well as the fact that he finds the time to run Merge Records, will actually show how deeply the people who make up Superchunk love and live for music. The title, as captured in the quote at the beginning, mostly seems to speak of the fact that the things we love can’t always help us up when we need or hardly ever can they change our circumstances, but that shouldn’t keep us from enjoying them. McCaughan and I have learned that this becomes a more devastating, albeit necessary fact the older we get.

Musically, the album finds Superchunk as energetic and urgent as ever, while giving us a bit more coherency and polish. Listening to this album really became nostalgic to me, as it made me reminisce over some of the great punk influenced bands I listened to when I was younger. However, instead of focusing on girls or getting drunk, McCaughan lends his lyrics toward more grown up and, at times, considerably darker fare. After all, what good is getting older if we don’t find healthier ways to deal with loss? McCaughan puts it all out in the open and invites us all to peer inside what is sure to be considered Superchunk’s most lyrically somber album to date.

Highlights include a full range of what Superchunk are capable of, energetic anthem “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo,” vibrantly catchy “Void,” brash punk rager “Staying Home,” which clocks in at 1:15, as well as the brilliantly masked dark themes of album opener “Overflows.”  Probably the most brazen track on the album comes at the end of the 38 minute affair. “What Can We Do” is a lengthy, breezy tune about accepting life as it comes, finding what can be taken, and progressing with that newfound knowledge. This seems to be the theme of the album, as McCaughan has discovered these are the ways we carry on and fully live in the face of loss or pain; all we can do is move forward.

Superchunk are certainly older and wiser than they were even three years ago at the release of “Majesty Shredding,” but they fully embrace their age and have only gotten better with time. It will be a good while before we can count them out of indie rock relevance. “I Hate Music” is out now via Merge Records.