“I hate music / what is it worth / can’t bring anyone back to this Earth / I fill in the space between all the notes / But I got nothing else / So I guess here we go”, croons Mac McCaughan on “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo”, the second track off Superchunk’s latest record, which gets it’s title from that very verse. It’s I Hate Music, the band’s second record since reuniting off a nine-year hiatus in 2009, following 2010’s Shredding Majesty, and the band’s 10th overall release. The band has been one of indie rock’s favorite darlings, following a DIY approach since the band’s inception in 1989. The band has been busy since their reunion, touring off Shredding Majesty and seeing popular drummer Jon Wurster pull multiple duties, also touring with The Mountain Goats and the legendary Bob Mould. But the question with any band that’s been going for 20+ years is always the same: How do you continue to make records your own way and not sound dated or repetitive? Well, Superchunk answers the call here, and just like their last 9 studio records, they come out on top.
The record starts out with the excellent opener, “Overflows”, a whisper-to-scream rocker that reads out like an autobiography that sets up the rest of the record. It’s almost like the band is getting all the nostalgia of being a band that’s been around 20+ years out of the way early, as is the same with “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo”, one the best tracks on the record and maybe is one of my top 10 favorite Superchunk songs. The song is super fun and super loud; it follows the traditional Superchunk formula and quickly became one of my favorite Superchunk songs. “Void” is a sludgy distorted alt anthem that packs a lot of punch. Right when you think you have a feel for the direction the record is going, the punky, multi-layered “Staying Home” knocks you on your butt, highlighted by Wurster’s incredible drum work, present on the entire record.
The middle of the record plays out in a very typical Superchunk way; “Low F” and “Trees of Barcelona” are really great rockers you can really dance too, one of the many qualities of most great Superchunk tunes. “Breaking Down” and “Out of the Sun” follow the Superchunk way of the “Start slow, end loud” theme that is present and never gets old. “Your Theme” is as close to a ballad as you’ll get on this record, and I love the way Laura Ballance’s bass really serves the song to the ear.
A real highlight is the record’s penultimate song, “FOH”. The guitar work here is excellent on all counts and is really reflective of the crazy vocal work of McCaughan and the crazy lyrics depicting a seemingly falling apart relationship scene. The final song on the record is the 6 minute epic “What Can We Do”, which ties off the albums loose ends and, in my opinion, is the best closing track on any Superchunk album. The song is melodic and drum-heavy and perfect.
In conclusion, the record is exactly what you expect from a band that has been together this long in its core unit for so long; these guys know how to rock. They know how to get it done and they know what their audience likes without alienating new listeners. People already fans of the band will enjoy it, and newcomers will be able to gravitate to it without having to go too much backtracking. It’s a perfect summary of Superchunk’s history and sound, and it is awesome.
FINAL VERDICT: 7.9/10
I Hate Music is available on August 20th via Merge Records. Pre-orders are ongoing.