Superchunk find each other on Wild Loneliness

By JP Spence

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Superchunk find each other on Wild Loneliness
Twelve albums in, and the indie-rockers are still finding out what makes them tick. I’ve always resisted the concept of a “grown-up” or “laid back” album because it has the same paradoxical quality of a guilty pleasure, which is another article for another day. All points are moot in this case when the eternally plucky Superchunk chooses to zig when you’re expecting a zag on the appropriately titled Wild Loneliness. Make no mistake, this is definitively a “pandemic record,” which, sadly, is still a relevant comment for a band to make. Recorded separately from each other during the peak of COVID-19, the song hooks are still there but you cannot deny the craftsmanship in said hooks. Wild Loneliness, however, could easily also be defined as “the mellow record.” It combines the driving upbeat of 2018’s “What A Time To Be Alive” with the realistic navel-gazing of 2013’s “I Hate Music.” The lyrics reflect caution beneath the (perceived) calm in the early days of the pandemic. Some people were learning how to maintain a starter yeast, while guitarist Mac McCaughan ponders larger effects like, “But I’ll still make the coffee, and we still make the beds, and the kids are scarred but smarter,” as heard in the album opener, “City of the Dead,” or how the days bleed into the weeks with “Not to be a bummer but I’m not ready for an endless summer” with the aptly titled lead single, “Endless Summer.” And as bleak (and accurate) as the songwriter’s assessment may be, hot damn if the mellow vibes of the album isn’t apropos for a lazy Sunday afternoon and set on repeat. Whatever energy and guitar reverb is missing on “Loneliness” is replaced with a lush string arrangement and brassy horns. Combined with the overall lo-fi aesthetic of the album, it’s a welcome new sound for the band. To some degree it fulfills the potential left behind on the band’s earlier acoustic work on “Come Pick Me Up” or “Here’s to Shutting Up” It’s easy to look at Superchunk in two distinct eras with an 11-year gap between the two. The first half is the legendary upstart, bratty crew from Chapel Hill that delivered punkish songs about heartbreak while wondering what tomorrow would be like. Now that their return is officially as long as their first run, we see the band still bratty and punkish as ever, but fortunately with well-worn wrinkles. Songcraft has replaced speed in their music. Subtlety has replaced rage in the band’s outlook. Knowing optimism has replaced blind hope in their lyrics. Superchunk and Wild Loneliness have proven that growing up is not necessarily just getting older.

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