Foolish, originally released in 1994 on one of the best indie labels ever, Merge Records, has been carefully remastered and re-released on vinyl/CD with bonuses and that all engrossing, rich sound that fans have come to know from this muppet rock band of the '90s. It is without a doubt that this is a band worth extreme recognition in D.I.Y. spirit and punk attitude. Superchunk has been a leader in the pop-punk/indie rock scene since forever; their efforts have inspired many acts like Weezer, Motion City Soundtrack and the Get Up Kids. Staying true to their roots, but going even further, Foolish proved to be their mid-career milestone and an album with fierce intensity hidden behind great pop songs.
Made with the heaviness of separation and anxiety, Superchunk crafted an album of said emotions and it’s filtered throughout the 12 tracks contained here. Songs like “Keeping Track” and “Like a Fool” give a deeply personal insight to a person’s emotional state--“From stage to stage we flew / A drink in every hand / My hand on your heart had been replaced / And I thought it was you that I chased”--but of course these types of songs have been written before (Bob Dylan's Blood On the Tracks, for example). What perhaps stands out the most is the time from whence these songs came. The '90s were the upstart to the suburban landscape of emo and indie rock. The insight into making songs of longing and hurt poured out from all directions and they gave kids a sense to make it themselves. There is a reason why so many of these bands emerged from that time period. A rip was made from the mainstream and anyone could do it, but with more integrity and appreciation to the music itself. Superchunk proved that with their previous efforts like No Pocky for Kity and On the Mouth, but it was here that it all came into fruition.
“The First Part” bangs with the reminder of D.C. post-hardcore and it ends with an epic riffing that makes one’s fingers hurt just listening to it. “Water Wings” is another example of cynical, yet catchy lyrics, but it’s “Saving My Ticket” that is perhaps the best example of this feat. “Always expecting the worse / My mouth cracked open spit out a curse / Well timed and well-rehearsed / And that’s no surprise.” The guitars and vocals of Mac McCaughan are so well done that it’s a tragedy not many see how he is awesome. The guy sings with a sort of nasally tone, but it fits so damn well that you couldn’t think of anyone else doing it (Matthew Pryor could be a close comparison…). The other members of Superchunk complement the music to levels of mastery. Jack McCook accompanies McCaughan well with his guitars and the rhythm section of bassist Laura Ballance and drummer Jon Hurst give the album a very nice groove; never going over the edge. It’s an album that’s both crunchy yet contained. A statement that’s uptempo, but reserved; caring and confused. Listen to final track “In a Stage Whisper” for a calmer movement that reflects the somber/mellow moments of bands like Archers of Loaf and Sonic Youth.
As for this reissue, the extras aren’t super great, but they do offer a bit more into the time from when this came out. Three acoustic B-sides from their Driveway to Driveway EP and some basement demos recorded by Hurst prior to the album are attached, as well as The Clambakes, Vol. 6: One in a Row, a 64-minute live recording from 1994 of a show at First Avenue in Minneapolis during the Foolish tour.
On a final note, this was my first album by Superchunk. Nothing ever really topped it as far as content and energy. To this day, the band is still around and cranking out great music. To think that one of the best bands from the '90s scene is still playing and still crafting excellent tunes is a significant achievement and one to look up to for any person or band. Dig it…