Superchunk @ Paradise Rock Club 9.26.13
by Ben Stas (English/Journalism), published October 8th 2013
photos by Ben Stas
Superchunk are veritable rock and roll heroes, plain and simple. The Chapel Hill quartet has churned out ten albums of earnest, energetic songs since 1989 with nary a misstep along the way. The punky noise rock of their first three LPs struck a near-perfect balance between fuzzed-out grit and pop sensibility. As they evolved, that formula gradually gave way to more diverse records that occasionally traded in the distortion pedals for an acoustic guitar or two while never losing sense of the band’s personality. Even beyond the band itself, its members have had quite an impact on the average indie-leaning record collection. Merge Records, the powerhouse label that’s home to Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel and Spoon, was founded by frontman Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance as a means of distributing the first Superchunk releases. And that’s not to mention that drummer Jon Wurster has been a full-fledged member of The Mountain Goats since 2007, and has recently collaborated with former Husker Du/Sugar member Bob Mould in studio and on tour.
Despite all of this, Superchunk remains a perpetually underrated band. Giants like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill receive the lion’s share of credit for the nineties’ finest guitar rock, but truthfully, Superchunk were up there with the greats all along. Last Thursday’s show at the Paradise, in support of the band’s August LP I Hate Music, was yet further proof of this.
I Hate Music has been described by the band as the darker twin to 2010’s Majesty Shredding, but the record’s darker subject matter did nothing to temper their on-stage enthusiasm. McCaughan spent most every second of the show when he wasn’t restricted to a microphone jumping across the stage, hopping to and from the drum riser or executing some rather impressive airborne high-kicks. Second guitarist Jim Wilbur functioned as McCaughan’s more earthbound foil, while the ever-cheerful and energetic Wurster was joined by the eager Jason Narducy on bass to fill out the rhythm section. Narducy is filling in for Ballance this tour, who decided to sit out the shows in light of a worsening hearing condition.
The set was predictably heavy on I Hate Music cuts, but this was the rare show where the crowd seemed just as amped for the new songs as the old ones. Chalk it up the band’s superhuman consistency. The hardcore-indebted “Staying Home” and instantly catchy “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo,” from whose lyrics the new record draws its title, worked particularly well. A number of Majesty Shredding highlights also made appearances, and the band reached into its treasure-trove of a back catalog for “Skip Steps 1 & 3,” “Hyper Enough” and the requisite “Slack Motherfucker” singalong.
Though the record has only been out a scant two and a half months, pointing out the irony of I Hate Music’s title in light of seeing a Superchunk show already feels cliché. That hardly makes the sentiment any less accurate though. Twenty four years into their career, and 22 with McCaughan, Wurster and Wilbur all on board, a Superchunk show proves that the band is as in love with music as it’s ever been. Go see them. Share the feeling.