Well I guess with a review title like that it's a bit of a giveaway that I am something of Superchunk aficionado (fanatic, even). When they announced their intention to reform a few years back (after a 10-year hiatus), for me the feeling was rather like having a critical limb restored to health following amputation. For them to then return with the magnificent Majesty Shredding, followed by their stonking live show at the Scala in December 2011, really was to exceed even my expectations.
With this follow-up, Mac no doubt has his tongue firmly in his cheek with the album title, but I do wonder whether (like me) he is a bit of a nostalgia freak and, despairing of much of today's 'radio fare', secretly harks back rather fondly to the 'early days' of 'indie' (or even punk). What I do know definitively, however, is that he, together with his fellow three North Carolinans (surely not the right word?), have constituted one of the most important bands of my last 20 years, and I Hate Music carries on the band's tradition of hook and melody-laden gems, all over-laden with the man's indecipherable, and strangely poetic, lyrics - here, often focusing on (mid-)life's darker elements. Style-wise, of course, given the band's two decade heritage, they are now not likely to be breaking any revolutionary new ground, but that is exactly why we (or, at least, I) love them so much.
I Hate Music is another collection of pretty much immediately infectious songs, from the lyrical beauty of Trees Of Barcelona (the city being one of the band's favourites following the earlier song, The Length Of Las Ramblas) and closer What Can We Do, through the marvellous hooks of album opener Overflows, Me & You & Jackie Mittoo, Breaking Down, Your Theme, FOH (Front of House), and other album standout, Low F, where Mac invites us to join him on the musical scale. They even have time to 'do a Creedence Clearwater Revival' on Out Of The Sun and a Ramones on Staying Home. Through all of this, Jon Wurster once again demonstrates that he is one of the tightest drummers around, whilst Mac contributes repeated instances of those heavenly guitar breaks and Laura's bass continues in true Hooky style (a shame to hear that her health - hearing condition - is likely to prevent her from continuing to play live).
A must for any Chunk fans and I look forward to the forthcoming gig at the Electric Ballroom in December.
There are some downright untouchable names in the annals of rock music history and Superchunk are one of them, as integral a part of the landscape as the more obvious contenders for over two and half decades. Yet, when a scene's elder statesman return to the studio there's a risk of an album's worth of sub-standard echoes of earlier favourites all the same. Happily, that needn't always be the case as long-time contemporaries Mudhoney proved with their killer Vanishing Point LP this year.
So too the `Chunk it turns out who - clearly oblivious to fashion - pick up exactly where any of their back catalogue finishes on I Hate Music, choosing to dole out great spoonfuls of gratuitous guitar-on-guitar action as they go. True, that means that I Hate Music is essentially college rock for men with kids approaching college age themselves, but that doesn't remove the band's influential status and you can hear it on tracks like "FOH", whose big chorus led by the ever-distinct work of Mac McCaughan will no doubt be inspiring the like of Les Savy Fav soon. The Hold Steady will likely be taking notes too when they hear the infectious melody of the opener "Overflows", its fast-tempo indie-rock harking straight back to a time when such a comparison wasn't a criticism.
Nostalgia of this type requires a little patience though, many cuts here initially seeming rather pedestrian until you adjust your ears and expectations to a time pre-Nirvana. Still, tracks like "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" are just so jam-packed with pleasing riffs that they can't fail to entertain, the pure adrenaline buzz that kicks in when the chorus strikes in "Low F" like a much needed hug from your BFF. Hell, the necessarily brief "Staying Home" even embraces a dash of thrash to appease certain power-punk fanatics of old.
Superchunk don't hate music, they're just going to make it in exactly the way they want to whether you like it or not ... and there'll be no shortage of fans who love it either way.