Flip These Houses, a benefit concert celebrating “Protest Music, Political Music, and Unity through song,” will be held on 9/28 at the Knockdown Center in Queens. The bill features Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan, Ted Leo, Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, the Wrens’ Charles Bissell, and the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn. More »
Alright you slack motherfuckers, you snot-nosed bachelor’s degree-wielding punks, you Simpsons-quoting meme machines, you couch-riding stoners, you unconcerned and underused masses — Superchunk has a message for you:
Get off your asses.
Yeah, yeah: “Superchunk’s old now,” “Superchunk doesn’t get the kids,” “Superchunk yelled at me from their porch” — I’ve heard it all. But they’re still plugging away at this music thing, even though they were pretty clear on the whole I Hate Music angle back in 2013. But then something happened in the past year and a half or so, something in November 2016 that just made Mac and co. go, “Y’know, maybe we still have something relevant to say.”
What that something was, we may never know, but that’s the price of aging: your mind wanders, you forget things, your hair falls out (well, Jim Wilbur lost his hair a while ago), you break your hip pogoing or hopping off a Marshall stack with your knock-off Fender Strat. You get really angry at stuff, but you don’t know why.1
But somebody dunked Mac, Laura, Jim, and Jon in the Fountain of Youth or something, because “Cloud of Hate” sounds like it was tailor-made for the On the Mouth era. They’re pissed-off kids again, and they absolutely sound like it. They mean it. And thank god for it.
Oh! I know what it was: last year’s presidential election, etc. That’s why we were mobilizing all of you up there in paragraph one. Yeah, so, Superchunk wants you to be as angry as them, and they want you to fight back against the toxic sludge of current policy. That’s why there’s this blistering minute-thirteen video directed by Taiyo Kimura. It’s all-out rallying cry, a total blast. “Cloud of Hate” float me away indeed.
1. Look, we’re not above making old-age jokes here. I’m not as old as the Superchunkers, but I’m not that far behind.
What A Time To Be Alive
If it rips, it was written. The yelp that splits an urgent word and the mouth that feels punched is hoarse and hard to stomach. The whole biology gets involved; hairs split, eyes pop, hearts break. A musicology of bruises point to our ability to repair after trauma, “but to be clear, darkness was all you wanted.”
There are smiles in sneers. The same skin that bruises holds us together; skin, like punk and poetry, starts elastic. If the world lurches underfoot, at least we have bruises to remind ourselves what hurt us and how we heal. We sing, off-key, all the while: “what a time to be alive.” An earnest resolution to celebrate life’s precious matter and a barbed reminder that everything’s more absurd than it ever was don’t have to be separate sentences when they live in the same chorus. Our bruises show how we were slapped and shoved under. “And now, just floating to the surface/ Hoping to find some kind of light.”
If it couldn’t survive, it wouldn’t bruise. Superchunk have always been a Chapel Hill DIY project most comfortable cutting pop exuberance with the sharp hook of a town’s darkness. What a Time to Be Alive, the group’s 11th album, arrives in this sprained year that feels simultaneously the best and worst one to be living in. Maybe that’s all the times; maybe living’s enough.
Because if it doesn’t survive, it dies. That’s a simple truth we all learn early on from a lost dog or a missed grandpa or worse, but it’s a hard simple truth. The last time we heard the roil roll of Superchunk’s gospel, in 2014, in what feels like 40,000 epochs ago, the band was reviewing the contract between our bodies and brains, between our living and dying. I Hate Music stared down the fragility of life while eyeing the futility of art-making to preserve that life. We grip lovers’ hands and shake our friends to not despair the truck ton of shit in our days, but we can’t argue the truth of our bodies. “I hate music: what is it worth?/ It can’t bring you back to this earth.”
What a Time to Be Alive, then, exists after impossible resolutions, in the thrall of picking up guitar after laying wood and skeleton and tears in earth. If the world already and always feels like an impossible fit for humans to be in, then punk was the thing boldly, stupidly committed to (re)imagining that space. If death and despondence feel like natural conclusions to being alive, then What a Time to Be Alive is the thrill of churning the natural into the transcendent.
The fade-in vamp that starts the title track is the smallest moment on record here. At the 11-second mark, What a Time to Be Alive hurls all its limbs at the pit and doesn’t look back. “I don’t know/ And I can’t explain,” Mac breaks, over squeal and squall, “Lost my heart/ And I lost my brain.” Bodies and bruises are all over these songs, as if by singing and re-singing stories of their breakage, Mac and Laura and Jim and Jon can conjure our repair. “Break the glass, don’t use the door/ This is what our hands are for,” goes “Break the Glass,” a shouted affirmative, a drum’s head spring. “I could break every bone in my foot kicking down at your dumb door,” goes “Bad Choices,” eyes peeled with a groove. “I got a lifetime of shit decisions/ I might never learn from them,” Mac sings, “but all your bad choices are gonna cause suffering.” Simple hard truths. Make sure to sing them loud.
Cadavers lie alone. Bodies live together. Superchunk’s joyous and unrelenting punk, sounding as urgent as it ever has, draws its strengths from its community. “You gotta get out, out and about/ Meet your weird neighbors once in awhile,” Mac reminds us, and What a Time to Be Alive, already an LP-length tribute to being in a band, spots collaborators and guests that only grow the sound’s scene. There’s Sabrina Ellis in the edges of “Break the Glass” and Katie Crutchfield and Stephen Merritt standing ground on “Erasure.” Community, “our empathy weaponized,” is how cells heal bodies. Merge means we need everyone to make the sound. Chelsea Manning shows up in the text of “I Got Cut” to remind the makers and the listeners of the merits of making bad people angry. Remember: “I’m working/ But I’m not working for you!”
What a Time to Be Alive, the yawp and the yeah and the yowl, is the perfect thesis and pinched nail. It’s the resolution to remain unhampered by despair while excising and atomizing all the moments we have to despair in. It’s the stuff in bones and the smile shared with someone else. The narrative of What a Time to Be Alive as a line-by-line reaction to the political turmoil of our present moment isn’t strictly wrong, but that view of politics (as a force to overtake art as opposed to the opposite) locks art up more than it lets it transform us. Reading punk via headlines impedes the whole scene and reduces the whole sound. This is the slam and sound of the many flowers growing in our skulls, all our bruised resiliencies. If it rocks, it moves a body. If it bruises, it survives. Superchunk means fighting for now and a whole universe of next.
“Fight me/ I’m not a violent person, but fight me.” Life is fragile and mortality is catching, but time is precious and eyes-down silence is untenable. “Fight me/ I don’t like to get hit, but fight me.” The belief that punk will save the world is stupid, maybe, but the confidence that it never will is tantamount to walking death. Superchunk, breaking unbroken, shout songs for us singing. “Fight me/ There’s a million more just like me.”
There’s a song on What A Time To Be Alive, the new album from North Carolina indie originators Superchunk, that’s called “Reagan Youth,” named after the old New York hardcore band. Forming in 1980, Reagan Youth predated their hometown’s chugging tough-guy hardcore scene. Instead, they were politically fired-up kids. They were fast and snotty and … More »
Later this week, veteran North Carolina yelpers Superchunk, one of the greatest and most consistent indie rock bands of all time, will release their new album What A Time To Be Alive. The new LP follows 2013’s great I Hate Music, and it has nothing to do with the Drake/Future album of the same … More »
Oh boy, if you thought 2018 would be any better than 2017, hopefully the first proper work week of the year dispelled you of those illusions. A lot of bad things happened this week — Jack White’s new songs, for example — but there were some good mixed in there too. We cemented More »
Superchunk’s upcoming album What A Time To Be Alive has already given us one absolute gem via the triumphantly defiant title track, and today they’re sharing a second. This latest single “Erasure” features some all-star support from their Merge Records comrades Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee) and Stephin Merritt (of Magnetic Fields et al). It’s … More »
Guys, it has been A WEEK. Woof! No need to recap. We all lived through it, we don’t need to do it again. And if we can survive this circle of Hell, we can survive anything. But enough about “Walk On Water”! That pile didn’t drop till today, and therefore wasn’t even eligible for … More »
Heads up, all you musical cosmopolitans out there: Superchunk (a.k.a. good ol’ Mac, Laura, Jim, and Jon — a.k.a. “the most credible power pop band in music”) have announced a new album called What a Time to Be Alive, and it’s due out February 16, 2018. And if the title sounds familiar to you, that’s likely because What a Time to Be Alive is also the title of Drake and Future’s surprise-released collaborative from 2015.
Superchunk’s What a Time to Be Alive will be the indie rock mainstays’ first full-length in four years, following 2014’s I Hate Music. It will also mark the band’s second full-length since returning from a lengthy hiatus with 2010’s Majesty Shredding.
How comparable is Superchunk biting a Drake and Future title in 2017 to The Replacements biting Let It Be from the Beatles in ’84? Just what is Superchunk implying here? Well, according to main-man Mac McCaughan, “the album is about a lot of things of course but mainly dealing with anxiety and worse in the face of incipient authoritarianism.” It’s a record, he says, “about a pretty dire and depressing situation but hopefully not a record that is dire and depressing to listen to.”
Anyway, while there’s as yet no word on whether the record’s B-sides will include a cover of “Jumpman,” the first single from Superchunk’s What a Time to Be Alive is also titled “What a Time to Be Alive.” You can listen to it right now below and pre-order the album in all kinds of formats from about a zillion different retailers with the click of a few buttons! Oh man (yup, here it comes!), What a time to be alive!
What a Time to provide a tracklisting:
01. What a Time to Be Alive
02. Lost My Brain
03. Break the Glass
04. Bad Choices
05. Dead Photographers
07. I Got Cut
08. Reagan Youth
09. Cloud of Hate
10. All for You
11. Black Thread
Superchunk on tour:
02.15.17 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar ^
02.17.17 – Richmond, VA – The Broadberry ^
02.21.17 – San Diego, CA – The Casbah ^
02.22.17 – Los Angeles, CA – The Moroccan Lounge ^
02.23.17 – Los Angeles, CA – The Teragram Ballroom ^
02.24.17 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall at Noise Pop Festival ^
02.26.17 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios^
02.27.17 – Seattle, WA – Neumos ^
02.28.17 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Rickshaw Theatre ^
04.03.17 – Washington, DC – Black Cat ~
04.04.17 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer ~
04.06.17 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair ~
04.07.17 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom ~
04.08.17 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom ~
04.26.17 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
04.27.17 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
04.28.17 – Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
^ Bat Fangs
North Carolina indie rock OGs Superchunk just put out a new 7″ last month, and now they’re following that up with their first new album since 2013’s I Hate Music. What A Time To Be Alive, no relation to Drake and/or Future, will be out early next year on the band’s longtime … More »