Superchunk – Majesty Shredding – New LP
Review by Tim Sendra: Superchunk never broke up officially after the release of 2001’s Here’s to Shutting Up album. They played the occasional live show, put out compilations and bootlegs, contributed to soundtracks, and released a couple singles and an EP, but no albums until 2010’s Majesty Shredding. Since they were never really gone, it’s hard to call the album a true comeback, but it is an impressive return to the spotlight as well as a heartwarming return to form.
The album casts aside almost all of the experiments the band tried on the last couple albums and forgoes outside contributors, orchestration, and production tricks. Apart from the horns on “Digging for Something” and a viola on “Fractures in Plaster,” the record is just the four members of Superchunk bashing out trademark high-quality indie rock bolstered by loud drums, a thrilling twin-guitar attack, and Mac’s always impassioned vocals. It’s like they traveled back to a time before they started to tire of their sound and began looking for new ways to put the songs across -- back to Here’s Where the Strings Come In, but with songs about kids, nostalgia, and growing old mixed in with the usual anxiety and heartache. They may have planned it or it may have been a happy accident; either way it was a great move to revisit their classic sound. Usually a band fails when trying this, because it feels like a ploy or a marketing decision, but in the case of Majesty Shredding it sounds completely organic thanks to the energy the band invests in the music. Plus, Mac delivered a batch of straightforward songs that lend themselves well to being thrashed out by the group. The moments of calm between the rockers are fine too, never sounding tired or rote, but always spilling over with emotion and real feeling. Just like they always have over the band’s 20-plus years. There are songs here that stand with the best the band has done (“Learned to Surf,” “Crossed Wires,” “Winter Games”), songs that will break your heart with their minute details on human frailty (“Fractures in Plaster”), songs that you’ll want to sing along to at top volume (“My Gap Feels Weird”), and songs that sound exactly how you want Superchunk to sound (“Slow Drip,” “Digging for Something”). They may not be the hippest band around in 2010 but they sound as fresh and important as they did in 1990, 1995, or 2001, and Majesty Shredding is the kind of album that’ll make you glad to be a fan of indie rock.
eleased September 14, 2010
Superchunk is Laura Ballance, Mac McCaughan, James Wilbur, and Jon Wurster.
Additional vocals on “Digging for Something” – John Darnielle
Horns on “Digging for Something” – Seamus Kenney (trombone), Mark Daumen (tuba), and Matt Kenney (trumpet)
Viola on “Fractures in Plaster” – Kristen Beard
All songs by Superchunk, © 2009 / 2010 (All The Songs Sound The Same Music – BMI) © & ℗ Merge Records
Recorded by Scott Solter at Overdub Lane, Durham, NC
Additional engineering by John Playmate
Mixed by Scott Solter at Baucom Road, Unionville, NC
Additional recording by Mac McCaughan at Glendale Drive
Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA
Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice
Design by Maggie Fost
Cover by Maggie Fost and Mac McCaughan
Band photo by Jason Arthurs
Live photos on pages 1 & 3 by PJ Sykes
Live photos on pages 4, 7, & 8 by Brian Vetter
Thanks to Scott, Plymale, Jim Romeo and Ground Control Touring, everyone at Merge, Harry and Judy, and our families.