Sound — 7
Superchunk formed in 1989 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and were instrumental in defining what came to be known as the Chapel Hill sound. They were one of the first indie bands to see large scale success, especially as they took drastic steps in their early career to remain "indie." Their efforts to remain "indie" included leaving their label, Matador, after their third release because Matador signed a distribution agreement with Atlantic Records. Founding members Jack McCook and Chuck Garrison left respectively after the second and third albums. Jon Wurster and James Wilbur were brought in to replace them and the line-up has remained stable since that time. The band remained active through 2001, releasing their first 8 albums in their first 11 years as a band. After this time they remained active on the live circuit as well as working on side projects and other small projects as a band but didn't release another new studio album until the 2010 release, "Majesty Shredding." "I Hate Music" is the 10th studio release by the band, with 11 tracks and a total runtime of approximately 37 minutes and was released by independent label, Merge Records. If anything from their original sound has changed, it is that they sound less punk and more in the realm of grunge and indie, but all with their original power pop sensibility. The album opens up with the track "Overflows" which starts out with some acoustic strumming but builds into a much more layered track. "Void" is a much more typical Superchunk track, with an interesting mix of grunge and indie elements. The track "Staying Home" is kind of like a reminder that the band hasn't completely abandoned their punk roots, even though it contains two short guitar solos (both very spastic grunge style solos). The track "Low F" is possibly the most straightforward indie rock track, and while there isn't anything to complain about on this track, there is also nothing to really gush about, either. The track "Trees of Barcelona" reminds me a lot of early '90s mid tempo punk rock. "Breaking Down" stands out most for the thundering bassline running through the whole thing, but it also has some interesting guitar sprinkled in occasionally as well. The track "Out of the Sun" definitely has one of the best chord progressions on the album to me, or maybe it just really works well with the lead guitar. The track "FOH" is another song that makes good use of different elements of punk, grunge and indie and pulls at those nostalgia strings tied to my love of early '90s music. The album closes out with the track "What Can We Do," which is by far the longest track on the album clocking in at over 6 minutes, but makes a good close to the album.
Lyrics — 8
Mac McCaughan has a distinctive type of voice and you either love it or hate it, and nothing really to do or say about that. I personally find vocalists with a lot of character in their voice very enjoyable, with Isaac Brock, Dave Mustaine, Bootsy Collins and such being my favorite vocalists. In other words, I enjoy Mac's vocals but there will be others who aren't going to be very fond of them, especially on "I Hate Music" as his voice seems to get more distinctive with age. The actual lyrical content is moderately interesting as it concerns dealing with time moving forward and no recourse we can take against it. This is most evident in the track "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo": "I hate music/ what is it worth/ can't bring anyone back to this earth/ or fill in the space between all of the notes/ but I got nothing else so I guess here we go/ crammed into the back of the van oh yeah/ all of my friends would go oh yeah/ sometimes Jackie would be in the front seat/ put in a tape/ and put up your feet on the dash/ we got a stereo freeze/ we got a sweet summer breeze/ a half an hour to the record store/ we were always together/ we were never the same." I know there are a few mistakes in my transcription of these excerpt of lyrics, but the message of the song still shows. Coming to term with the passing of time, age, and loss are recurring themes.
Overall Impression — 7
I was a huge fan of the early indie bands and of grunge music, so this album falls right into that category for me. I am sure there will be some dissenting opinions about this album, but I believe that in the realm of indie/alternative rock this is a solid album. My favorite tracks from the album would probably be "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo," "Staying Home," "FOH" and "Out of the Sun." I didn't really have any songs I disliked on the album, but honestly there were several tracks that came in as different shades of mediocre. The several mediocre tracks will keep me from giving this album a rating as high as I otherwise would have wanted to. Bottom line this is a solid album with some really nice tracks on it, but they're kind of mixed in with some relatively mediocre songs.