superchunk — majesty shredding

superchunk @ the cradle

Superchunk — Majesty Shredding. Out 9/14, Merge Records.

On Monday night, I made a metaphorical horrified face at Ash over IM, at the thought that someone my age or older had literally never heard of Superchunk before this week. I’m not judging! I was simply surprised, because at the age of 14, Superchunk put out Foolish and some teenage girl magazine I read — Sassy, I think, based on the design of the feature, which I tore out of the magazine back then and still have in my writer’s notebook — did a feature on the “next Seattle” indie rock scene in Chapel Hill, and I fell in love. When I was 14, I thought that Chapel Hill was the coolest place in the world. It took me 11 years after that to get here, and basically, now, I’m never leaving. I still think that Chapel Hill, and the Triangle at large, is one of the coolest places in the world.

So I’m a little biased when it comes to the first new Superchunk album since before I could legally drink, is all; it could have been Mac McCaughan reading the Carrboro phone book over Laura Ballance playing the sitar, and I would have loved it for being what it was: a Superchunk album released when I was a grown-up, when I’d spent years thinking about music and how music shaped me and how the music that was made in Chapel Hill in the early and mid ’90s shaped me particularly. How that music, above all, drove me to end up here. I have always been romantic about the Triangle scene, and I still am, albeit in a much more concrete romantic way now; these are the actual ways in which I know this place I have chosen to live is amazing, and I love it for those things and many more.

Luckily for me Mac and Laura and Jim and Jon did not put out a phone book backed by sitar and bongos. That would have been horrifying. I would have professed my love for it, but it would have been horrifying.

Every review of Majesty Shredding or article about the band that you read will say the same thing: this is a Superchunk album. Crashing fuzzy guitars and the stunning rhythm section of Laura and Jon pinning it all down, Mac’s lyrics and shouty vocals, just all growed up a little. If you read a review that says something else, that reviewer is stupid. And the thing is, those of us who were teenagers or college students or 20 somethings in the early and mid ’90s, the thing is that’s what we want. We want a Superchunk album, we want the kinds of songs that moved us back then. The same sound, the wildly contained live shows, the feeling of knowing that someone understands how you feel. And like this album, a lot of us are all growed up now, too, adults with day jobs and car payments and mortgages and maybe kids, and this is an album for us.

It’s eminently clear in the only holdover from last year’s Leaves in the Gutter EP, “Learned To Surf”: i can’t hold my breath anymore/i stopped swimming and learned to surf. Superchunk grew up. Mac and Laura shepherded Merge into its role as one of the premier indie labels in the country. I bought a car and took out approximately four million dollars in student loans and got a Master’s degree and stood on Franklin Street after a national championship and got laid off and got a new job and took tens of thousands of photographs. I stopped swimming and learned to surf.

This album is perfect; it could be lazy, or sloppy, or boring, and it isn’t any of those things. Mac and company don’t miss a note, don’t waste a note, in a paean to getting older, growing up, and moving on — but still rocking the hell out. It is what I wanted it to be and maybe more than that and definitely not less. It’s the first Superchunk album in 9 years and it’s gorgeous.

Superchunk releases Majesty Shredding officially tonight at the Nasher Museum at Duke. Most of the time I try hard keep my smugness about our scene to myself, but this deserves it: I chose to live in the Triangle. I picked this place all by myself, I made this the home I chose for my adult life. I think it’s an amazing place to live. And tonight I get a Superchunk CD release show and you don’t, so there.

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