One thing a successful, tenured band can look forward to is unconditional love. Whether from critics or fans, established artists can begin to garner an affection that will exist no matter what. Indie-punk legends Superchunk deservedly fit this category. Over the past 23 years they’ve released their share of excellent albums and helped put the Chapel Hill music scene on the map.
Of course, Superchunk’s latest album, I Hate Music, at times implies the failure of unconditional love. Age and experience have led the band to question the art that once acted as a vehicle for the exuberant, youthful cry of songs like “Slack Motherfucker.” The quintessential lyric from this latest release comes from “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” when Mac McCaughan sings “I hate music/what is it worth/can’t bring anyone back to this earth.” But this title-supplying lyric isn’t a transparently provocative stunt. Instead, it’s frustration manifested as an oversimplification. Superchunk doesn’t dislike music, they like it so much that it hurts to see its limits.
The album is filled with reflections like this, but still delivered with force and velocity as has become expected from Superchunk. The theme of loss comes back with the literally titled “Void,” a bass-heavy track with plenty of shredding. “Your Theme” again has McCaughan looking reverently on the past when he asks, “oh what I’d do/to waste an afternoon with you” and includes a subtle nod to all the North Carolina listeners (“learning how to be and not to seem”). I Hate Music isn’t all sentimental contemplation, though. “FOH” provides a shout-along jaunt that goes a little bit inside baseball in its mention of exploding drums and downed amps.
The record closes with a feeling of acceptance, demonstrated by the song “What Can We Do.” After a mixture of resentment and reflection throughout the album, there’s something equally soothing and aching about that song title. The lyric, “I’ll say I love you/I won’t say goodbye,” further captures the conflicted emotions of triumph and desperation. But perhaps conflicted is as honest as it gets. Whatever the case, Superchunk has spent this album sharing with us just how they feel. And we love them for it.