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The Portland Phoenix
Oct 25 - Nov 1, 2001

[Music Reviews]

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*** Superchunk

HERE’S TO SHUTTING UP

(Merge)

ever mind that the most brilliant chunk of superness to come out of this indie-rock institution in the last couple years was drummer John Wurster’s comic masterstroke Rock, Rot & Rule (StereoLaffs), which features him in the alias of rock critic Ronald Thomas Clontle sparring with listeners on a New Jersey college-radio station. Or that singer Mac McCaughan has been wading in the perilously pretentious shallows of lm music with his Portastatic solo project of late. Superchunk are simply the one indie-rock band you can still count on to come through every couple years with a CD that reminds you why you fell for indie rock in the rst place — a hearty and heartfelt collection of lightly seasoned moods and melodies portioned out in bittersweet bites of power-pop beauty packed with the recommended daily allowance of indie’s essential DIY vitamins and earnest minerals. You’d have to eat 15 or 20 bowls of Versus to equal just one Here’s to Shutting Up.

Which is not to say that Superchunk have a perfect album on their hands. Indeed, it’s little imperfections like the pedal steel that tries too hard to impart a country avor to “Phone Sex” that enhance the band’s irresistible charm. There’s just something in the way McCaughan almost hits those high notes he shouldn’t strain for, and in the way the tenuousness of the harmonies bassist Laura Ballance (indie rock’s original crush girl) throws into the mix mirrors the rockiness in the relationships they’re singing about.

Some things never do change, and you’re glad of it. Superchunk’s music hasn’t stagnated: there are more of the assorted keys McCaughan started toying with in Portastatic here, as well as some nicely placed and played cello and violin; and there are more mid-tempo rockers and ballads. But the band aren’t afraid to turn up the volume and the velocity from time to time. Mac does take the avant keyboard a little too far in “What Do You Look Forward To?” — even with the best burger in the world, nobody wants a side of dilled haricots verts — but he comes back to finish Here’s to Shutting Up on a high note, with a tasty and amusing three-minute guitar-pop nugget called “Drool Collection.”

— Matt Ashare


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