Superchunk fans rejoice because Mac’s back! This time with a solo album under his own name, Mac McCaughan delves into the soft-focus nostalgia of ‘80s introspection. Non-Believers is a sweet collection of personal songs about the ambiguity of transition. Out on CD and vinyl LP from Merge.
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‘I Hate Music’ is Superchunk’s best record. Delivered twenty-three years into their bubbly career, it displayed Mac McCaughan kicking out against songs and albums, the things he’d spent his life dedicated to; the anguished chords and splintered riffs writhed, blaming melody for the cycle of death. As far as indie rock albums about getting older go, Superchunk made the realest -- they made one they were dissatisfied with.
Considering how ferociously the hooks and tones of ‘I Hate Music’ struggled against their demons, ‘Non-Believers’ comes as a surprise. It’s Mac McCaughan’s first solo record ever, which is a given -- he’s had all the creative freedom in the world with Superchunk, so it’s not like his songwriting has needed its own formal pasturing. Listen to the tunes, though, and there’s a marked difference: the gnarly and rapid-fire tunes that come with his band are replaced with gooey synth transpositions that stumble awkwardly next to the bona fide indie rawk.
With this backdrop of quasi-moog upending McCaughan, his songwriting sounds woozy and tired; “Mystery Flu” struggles around a coalescence of sustained chords and laser-beam notes, offsetting and almost parodying the solemn storytelling. The drum machine on “Box Batteries” is programmed like a caricature, running in place with the chord sequence firing next to it. On “Real Darkness”, it sounds like he’s trying to splice the Superchunk sound in half and inject it with the Beach House aesthetic, positing languishing guitar and wistfully sighed vocals into a busy landscape. It’s a mess, frankly, and while it has its charms, it's not the kind of mess I’ve come to love hearing this songwriter make. So yes, I can understand why this isn’t a Superchunk record. But that’s all I can understand.
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