How many bands can you think of that have been around for 20+ years and continue to make good music? There aren’t many of them. Most of the time a band doesn’t stay together for that long, and if they do, the quality of their music typically suffers greatly. Superchunk doesn’t fall into that category. In their 24 years of existence, they have put out ten solid full-length albums. Their most recent one is titled I Hate Music. From the title it may sound like the band is ready to call it quits, but the band shows up and delivers their songs with the same fervor they’ve had since 1989.
While a title like I Hate Music might be great for punk rock posturing, the album itself tells quite a different story. The title comes from the beginning of the album’s single “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.” The full line goes “I hate music, what is it worth/Can’t bring anyone back to this Earth,” and lead singer Mac McCaughan goes on to reminisce about good times listening to tapes in a van or shopping at the record exchange with this person whom they wish the music could bring back. The rest of the album carries on with songs sharing Superchunk’s thoughts on music and band life. Songs like “Void” and “Trees of Barcelona” tackle the good and bad of being on the road, while on “FOH,” Superchunk takes concert sound check banter and turns it into something more.
No matter how down their melancholy, cynical lyrics could possibly get you, Superchunk always counterbalances them with their bright, hook-filled music. Ever since I first heard them, I’ve always really liked Superchunk. I found their music to be way more appealing and exciting than some of their indie and alt-rock contemporaries like Pavement and Nirvana. And while they’ve slowed down considerably from the raw kinetic punk of their early works, the band still makes very effective and catchy power pop.
I Hate Music has some great musical moments. “Your Theme” has an infectious hook that you can sing on top of about half the tracks on the album; unfortunately (or luckily) it shows up pretty late in the album. “Staying Home” provides some seriously moshable punk rock. On “FOH,” McCaughan turns a common sound check question, “How’s everything at the front of the house?” into an anthemic chant. The real high point of the album has to be “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.” Clocking in just under two minutes, it is a lean power pop song that packs a huge punch. Additionally, the accompanying music video features shots of people holding up what I imagine are their favorite albums; the whole thing comes off as a tribute to music and it really got to me, which is more than I can say for most music videos.
I Hate Music comes from a place of pain and loss involving music. But there’s no way to stay mad at music, especially for Superchunk; a band that’s made 10 solid albums since 1989, become an established rock band, and founded Merge Records which has gone on to become a powerhouse label for indie rock. Combine that with the exuberance they put in to all of their music, from when they started through today, and there is no way I’d believe that anyone in the band hates music.