Superchunk proves punk ain‰’t dead just yet

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Superchunk proves punk ain‰’t dead just yet

Nora Turner

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Image courtesy of Consequence of Sound

America‰’s isolating political climate and the resurgence of garage and grunge sounds has proven one thing: punk is far from dead. Part of the Chapel Hill, NC DIY foundation, Superchunk are true veterans in their field, churning out records since their founding in 1989.

Superchunk‰’s February release, What a Time to be Alive doesn‰’t sit in the past or mimic the “glory days‰” of 90s punk. While this album is purely reactionary, and their first in over four year, its rowdy nature encapsulates the feelings of many Americans following the election of Donald Trump as president. This isn‰’t Superchunk‰’s first time around the block in punk; they‰’ve been at this fight for decades.

Lead by Mac McCaughan‰’s alto that hasn‰’t lost its youthful spunk, What a Time to be Alive is eleven songs chock-full of protest and questions in just a 37-minute set. It emphasizes a return to darker times again, emphasized through ominous guitar licks from McCaughan and Jim Wilbur. It feels that drummer Jon Wurster (also of the Mountain Goats) doesn‰’t take a single breath throughout the album, especially in standouts like “I Got Cut‰” and “All For You.‰” Bassist Laura Ballance provides bass as one of the band‰’s original members, though she no longer tours with the band.

Superchunk‰’s youthful angst of late night adventures and disappointing love seen on early records like Foolish (1994) and Come Pick Me Up (1995) evolved into a criticism of society, with that similar point of contention.

The album‰’s title track and opener is its stand-out and one of the best singles of the year. There is no hiding behind any metaphors or symbols when we “see the rot in no disguise/Oh what a time to be alive/the scum, the shame, the fucking lies/oh what a time to be alive.‰” Superchunk can easily tap into the vein of frustration that so many people are experiencing today with American values.

“Reagan Youth‰” is another favorite as an ode to the band‰’s own childhood experiences. Their poignant songwriting tells the story of when it was “95 degrees and it’s summer ’81‰” and being a “Regan Youth‰” planted the seed for punk music. The song recognizes the division of youth who grew up under the Reagan administration. And when his presidency was over “your friends do not look fine‰” and they‰’ve gone underground.

This song especially points to why this album, and this band, can still be relatable to young people today. Superchunk‰’s work is still relevant in the political sphere because not only is the music awesome, but they are acknowledging the desperation of the present moment and how it relates to their own past American experience.

What a Time to Be Alive was released on Merge Records, which McCaughan and Ballance have owned since 1994. Every Superchunk release since Foolish has been put out under their own direction, and releasing some of alternative‰’s seminal albums of the past decade, like Spoon‰’s Ga Ga Ga and Arcade Fire‰’s The Suburbs.

Superchunk is playing the Black Cat on April 3.