An archetypal 90s US guitar band and purveyors of the North Carolina sound, Superchunk were quiet for most of the new century before they released the excellent Majestic Shredding in 2010. Their latest record is their tenth album and is energetic and melodic without being truly satisfying.
The title reflects the mood of lyrics which deal with being in a band for a long time; at times songs can be optimistic, like the catchy, Guided By Voices-like ‘Trees of Barcelona’, a great three minute rock song about “playing covers for our Spanish sisters and brothers”. At other times, they’re more downbeat: “I hate music/ what is it worth?/ can’t bring anyone back to this earth”. You can read that ambiguous line as cynical and jaded or just realistic, the experience of people whose idealism has been rubbed away by two decades of business. Whatever the real meaning, for a bummer of an opening lyric (and a horribly clumsy song title, ‘Me and You and Jackie Mittoo’), it’s buoyed by some majestic melodies.
Bands like the Foo Fighters spring to mind when I hear the big, melodic rock of opener ‘Overflows’ or the quasi-hardcore ‘Staying Home’. Superchunk have a better sense of melody than the lumpen Foos, and are definitely more catchy, but they’re as much slaves to guitar shredding as Grohl’s ghastly group and seem to be pursuing the same radio-friendly unit shifters that Nirvana warned of, where the high-energy indie-punk of tracks like ‘FOH’ and the elegant rock shapes of ‘Out of the Sun’ would work for the VH1/XFM crowd. I Hate Music has its moments but is ultimately a bit too much lowest-common-denominator guitar rock to be satisfying, and is therefore a weaker follow up to Majesty Shredding that you’d have hoped.