Tuesday, 3 February 2009



Downloaded this record from 1994 the other day, and was struck by how antiquated (and removed from now) it sounds, but in a really appealing way.

It's strange. Formally, there's nothing particularly interesting going on here: generic early-nineties US alt-rock (can I use the term 'grunge-inflected', or was the G-word always just a spurious, media-conjured moniker?), the kind of straight-down-the-line, marginally punk, ever-so-slightly messy guitar rock that has influenced just about everyone from Pink to the Pigeon Detectives in the last 15 years.

In most of the listening contexts I can imagine, this is the last thing you'd want to hear, neither powerful and immediate enough to be viscerally affecting, nor sophisticated and layered enough to get cerebral cogs whirling.

Basically, it's kind of shit (look at the cover art for Tony Hart's sake!).

So why do I like it?

I dunno, I suppose there is just something inherently winning about impotency, in a way that the British alternative fraternity has almost totally lost sight of. The sound of this album (one that I remember being fairly prevalent until relatively recently) is one of hopelessness being temporarily transfigured into something triumphant and hopeful, of small-town losers using their lack of any kind of technical/formal proficiency as a kind of beautiful, radical weapon. The whole wonderful point (and this is audible in the un-varnished, un-sparkly arrangements) is that this is never going to amount to anything, never going to make any money, never going to appear on Jo Whiley's Live Lounge or T4 specials presented by Makita Oliver, or be labelled the HOTTEST RECORD IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW by Zane Lowe.

This isn't music to change the world, but it is music that matters very much to at least some people - simple, enabling, empowering self-expression. And really, what major British indie bands of the moment genuinely matter in this way to anyone?

So I can forgive the shitness, because Superchunk appear to me to be offering something a lot more special: meaning.


Anonymous said...

clearly, you have missed the point.

this record does not proudly display the band's lack of technical prowess. it is rather a maturation of their sound, the beginning of their studio experimentations-which, while never really re-inventing the wheel, puts an intriguing stamp on each subsequent album.

and as far as being hypeworthy, the band did it on their own terms, eschewing mainstream media outlets. they generated/deserve their own hype. they are one of the first bands to come to mind when discussing indie rock(second only to fugazi, who i'm sure you also don't understand).

the album cover art is meant to convey the ramifications of mac and laura's recent breakup. crude, but effective.

Alex Niven said...

Err ... not really quite sure how to respond to this.

The post was supposed to be a massive big-up of Superchunk, or have I not made myself clear?

I don't really disagree with anything you say here, and don't profess to 'understand' the band (or Fugazi for that matter).

The cover art is shit though, no argument there.

Anonymous said...

Superchunk are pretty cool yeah but seriously ...one of the first bands that come to mind when discussing indie rock?

Err, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, The Pixies, The Smiths, Fugazi, Guided by Voices, Pavement, Built to Spill etc etc all come to mind way before. I mean even Nirvana for christs sake.