Superchunk - Here's Where the Strings Come In (Cover Artwork)


Here's Where the Strings Come In (1995)


"'Green Flowers, Blue Fish' was originally recorded for the Keanu Reeves movie Johnny Mnemonic.”

Quoted above is a short sentence from the Wikipedia page for this album, one of the scant five included in the article. Is this a proper legacy for this album? A footnote in relation to a footnote in Keanu’s footnote-laden filmography? I can wholeheartedly say that this album deserves better. A whole lot better. Granted Wikipedia is not the be all, end all when it comes to an album’s lasting power, but it certainly holds an uneasy influence on newer generations. 20 years on from the release of this Here’s Where the Strings Come In, Wikipedia has more or less replaced the “cool older sibling” as the gateway for discovering new/better music. Back in 1995, a friend’s older brother may have given you a scratched up copy of Fugazi’s Repeater, but now you can just read an article about Nirvana and see what influenced Kurt.

So, moving on from the “cyberpunk dreamscape,” or whatever Johnny Mnemonic was trying to do, we can talk about this album. I’m not going to pretend I can put this album into the context of its release date (I was 5 when it came out), but I can do my best to put it into the context of my own musical experience. Having been a fan of Superchunk for about 7 years or so, my personal pick for favorite album has ping-ponged back and forth. It started with the calm, understated Indoor Living before moving on to On the Mouth. After a brief pit stop thinking that the very welcome comeback album Majesty Shredding was their best, I settled on Here’s Where the Stings Come In and my opinion has not budged since.

When I saw Superchunk for the first time in 2010, “Hyper Enough,” this album's opening track, whipped the crowd into a verified frenzy. The crowd jumped/moved/shaked/convulsed more to this song than they did to “Precision Auto,” which is saying something, since the latter song is pure nervous energy. The band certainly made the right decision to open “Here’s Where the Strings Come In” with such a raucous song and follow it up with the mid tempo, moody “Silverleaf and Snowy Tears.” Two songs in and Superchunk illustrated what this album is all about. They showed that they could still be on the top of their game with fast paced, sugar rush songs, but they’re going to slow things down a bit from time to time to give their emotional moments a little more room to breathe. It was hard to complain or begrudge them for this when the slower tracks are as good as “Sunshine State” and “Green Flowers, Blue Fish” were. Deliberate speeds and dour lyrics are certainly present, but they didn't prevent you from wanting to shout along just the same.

"Detroit Has a Skyline Too" and "Eastern Terminal" served as the album's mid-point one-two punch. Combining the anxious tenacity of their faster tracks and the emotional vulnerability of their slower tracks, "Detroit Has A Skyline Too" served as the album's mission statement. "Eastern Terminal" illustrates that the band is certainly a force as a musical four piece. The song followed the band as the tempo slowly picked up steam until a euphoric guitar freakout enters the fray, only to pull back for the song's initial slow jangle to take over again. If you needed proof that Superchunk was more than just razor guitars and hooky, high(er) pitched vocals, then look no further than "Easter Terminal." Here, the band certainly had you playing Track 6, Track 7 again and again.

"Certain Stars" had the band saving the best for last. Starting off as a slow build, the band promptly launched into the song without so much as a warning. It was almost as if Superchunk wanted to set an intricate trap to capture you before losing patience, saying "Fuck it," and simply hitting you over the head with a musical brick. It was perfect. The song's propulsive drums and thick, deep bass line served as the foundation without hogging the spotlight that they would deserve in any other song. Here's Where the Strings Come In had the band opening and closing an album in the most perfect way. I cannot think of another band that can have me screaming "Hotel exchange rates aren't what they used to be" with such ease and poise.