Although Superchunk leader Mac MaCaughan rightly says he would swap eight years of terrible music for having his country not run by a child, much great art is coming out of the Trump years. Superchunk have a lot to say but have tried to make an album that is uplifting and not depressing to listen to. It also features more guest backing vocalists than any other Superchunk record.
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Moon pie. What a time to be alive. The grey and great Superchunk that exists in this decade make songs clearer and better formatted than anything from the old days, coasting by on the energy of their old snippet tunes while letting them flesh out in a way they first mastered on the slow, songful “Like a Fool”. I’m biased towards the older generations of indie rock bands, but ‘I Hate Music’ may have been their greatest record; they follow that power-popped crisis of adulthood with a “protest album” mad as hell at living with Trump and the violence of political complacency.
“What a time to be alive -- we can’t pretend to be surprised”. That lyric, the first of many ear-grabbers on this record, coasts by over a bouncy chord chug, the sentiment tailspinning into a goofy, wahing guitar solo of pure Superchunk silly. It’s one of those -- major in tone, minor as heck in feeling. As the record goes on, it’s clear Superchunk are making simpler, gnarlier songs inspired by an earlier punk tradition -- an easy throughline to their despondency and dissent comes in the one-two-three-four chord smash of “Lost My Brain”, which throws way back. With songs like this, the record rushes through its pissed off moments -- “Break the Glass” has some gorgeous moments, its melodies rich and subliminal, but it still strives to be over before we can let its energy slip away.
Superchunk fans new and old are accounted for, here: it’s another record in which Mac McCaughan seeks to communicate at his most lucid, but there’s those old, repetitive riffs and growling basslines that made his band such an appealing alternative in the embryonic days of indie rawk. With appearances from Stephin Merritt, Katie Crutchfield and more, he offers a fuller version of a fast, furious sound, taking with him a community of people looking for somewhere to channel their dejection. Give Superchunk something to hate and they'll burn it down with the boundless hooks of pop punk.
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