I Hate Music Too (Sometimes), But I Like Superchunk
Superchunk's 20+-year catalog of guitar-driven rock songs still stands the test of time. So I'm always excited to see them live. And their last two releases, the excellent Majesty Shredding and I Hate Music also hold up well compared with the rest of their back catalog. And the thing is they don't really have to do this any more, and that makes me appreciate seeing them even more.
With all their other side projects and work running a label, if the Superchunk songs aren't good enough, there's no point in putting out a record and touring behind it. Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance are busy running the label they co-founded 23 years ago - Merge Records, and drummer Jon Wurster (the Bob Mould Band, Mountain Goats with Ballance's husband John Darnielle, et. al.) and touring bass player Jason Narducy (filling in on the road for Ballance, who suffers from hyperacusis, also in the Bob Mould Band and Split Single with Wurster and Britt Daniel of label-mates Spoon, et. al.) are doing double- or triple-duty these days with their other bands. And this doesn't even include McCaughan and guitarist Jim Wilbur's ongoing side project, Portastatic, who have been releasing albums fairly consistently since the mid 90's.
Their latest record I Hate Music is McCaughan's way of saying that he sometimes gets bored with new music and wonders what the point of it all is. It continues the theme of the excellent "My Gap Feels Weird" from Majesty, referring to the age-gap the older McCaughan feels toward the younger bands around now and the kids he sees at some of the alt/rock shows. As you get older the things you previously thought were so important become a little less important. It's ironic that they would release an album so good that is titled I Hate Music.
The title came about as a response to the death of a close friend of the band. As McCaughan put in a Rolling Stone interview in August, "If you've assigned music this role in your life, what happens when the other stuff that's happening in your life is much heavier than that, when it just doesn't work anymore? Obviously, we don't hate music, but at the same time it's like, wow, if even this thing that's most important to you – music – isn't helping, or doesn't feel like it's worth anything in the face of what life can bring you, then what good is it?" And he also noted the focus of the album is "what role do different things play in your life in different stages of your life?" The opening verse of "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" from the new album sum up this sentiment nicely: "I hate music /What is it worth? /Can't bring anyone /Back to this earth /The feeling of space /Between all of the notes /But I got nothing else /So I guess here we go."
Anyway, as expected the set was a nice mix of old favorites, with seven of their previous nine albums represented with at least one song, and a plurality of songs from the new album (seven to be exact). During an extended slow interlude in "Digging for Something", Mac talked about how he always liked coming to Philly, since Wurster is from Harleysville, PA. And when they were younger, they'd crash at his family's house and eat Tastykakes. The one downer was that the crowd seemed a little less into the newer material than I was expecting. Superchunk also continued their trend on this tour covering local (or somewhat local) obscure bands who hailed from each area they play. So for this show it was Philly hardcore band Ruin and the legendary Misfits (I guess Bergen County, NJ, 100 miles away is considered close enough). And Wurster absolutely killed it on the cover songs. Thunderous.
Me & You & Jackie Mittoo
Detroit Has a Skyline
Punch Me Harder
Out of the Sun
Driveway To Driveway
Digging For Something
Trees of Barcelona
Proof (Ruin cover)
Children in Heat (Misfits cover)
Skip Steps 1 & 3
And here's a clip of the end of "Trees of Barcelona"