For a band with the kind of history that Superchunk has, it's easy to get caught up in exposition. With that in mind, let's sum things up in three points:
- Superchunk first started out in 1989. Over time, they developed from Dinosaur Jr. college rock to a sort of missing link between the Get Up Kids and the Hold Steady.
- Members of the band started Merge Records, a label most known for Arcade Fire and Spoon.
- Its most recent album, Majesty Shredding, is its first since 2001.
OK, so, Majesty Shredding.
This album is a goddamn treat. Superchunk's latest is beautiful in its simplicity: just a batch of well-written, smartly structured rock and roll songs. This is the kind of record one can throw on at any time, at any point, and enjoy the hell out of it for no other reason than it's fun to listen to.
The band's greatest strength is its ability to bridge the gap between boner-inducing guitar work and smart pop hooks. The album's best songs, "Rosemarie," "Crossed Wires," "Learned to Surf" and "Everything at Once" are nothing but these two principles looped endlessly. This especially goes for "Rosemarie" and "Everything at Once," which are two of the most pleasant pop songs of the year. The former is a mid-tempo track that boasts the kind of effortlessly catchy chorus that people have killed themselves trying to make, while the latter is a blast of gang vocals and high-pitched rock guitar from a by-gone era where punks could actually play their instruments.
Of course, if you aren't into that whole New Pornographers, textbook-perfect pop music thing, there are the straightforward rockers: those catchy, grimy fuckers that take a simple progression and bang the shit out of it. Lead singer and guitarist Mac McCaughan is a six-string monster, laying down buzzed-out '90s-style solos at the drop of a hat on top of a band so locked in it sounds like they could play this shit in their sleep. If you wanted to teach a class on how to make a great alt-rock sound in the classic, late '80s-to-early '90s college rock style, you would play "Digging for Something," "My Gap Feels Weird" and "Learned to Surf" on the first day.
Majesty Shredding is the sound of a band with supreme confidence, backed by the power of knowing how they want to sound and getting exactly what they set out for. It's music born of time and relaxation. When you've got a 20-year pedigree, you don't need to prove shit to anyone. Not working for affection makes this album all the sweeter.
Oh, and John Darnielle sings backing vocals on the first track. Fucking Superchunk, just dropping john Darnielle in its album like it ain't no thing. You cocky shits. I love you.