Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
(Merge)
Words: Conor Berigan

On first hearing Superchunk, a brief glimpse from the movie The Goonies came to mind.  Chunk doing the truffle shuffle, alongside a clothed superman named Sloth, knife sliding down a hundred-foot mast in pure triumph and exuberance, exemplifying all meaningful memories that I hold dear.   Taking that image and comparing it to the DIY attitude and true indie rock spirit of Superchunk still maintains an uncanny parallel.  After a nine-year unofficial hiatus, the group have a rejuvenated sound with new textures and layers not seen in past Superchunk albums, but they still remarkably maintain their emblematic persona that made them one of the best bands of the 90’s.  Can we all take a minute to mount Falcor, the luckdragon, and strap in with the warm feeling of apple pie settling in our tummies and love that only a bedtime story from Jerry Garcia can provide?  Here we stand, about to embark on an epic saga of nostalgia, anxiety, and heartaches.  In Majesty Shredding one can feel the authenticity of the music, and honesty in the words that can only be mustered from genuine experience.

The album starts with “Digging for Something” booming with pop power chords, walloping drums from Jon Wurster, John Darnielle’s backing vocals on the chorus, and a wailing guitar solo as forceful as a mother bear protecting her cubs.  Coupled with the instrumentalism are the impassioned vocals of Mac McCaughan pining for lost simplicity and digging for the essence of life shrouded in mystery.  “My Gap feels Weird” bursts out of the gates gaping, with steady double guitar-enlaced pop brilliance that won’t only make your head bob, but your spine tingle. A song revealing a prideful abstractness and a side to life that is judged but unique, “a song for the kids down on the corner/with a look that tells you/ time and transition is a wave that will put you over.”

A change of pace brings us to “Rosemarie,” which is reminiscent of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” but blossoms into its own punker version.  With a heart-on-sleeve chorus of “good and the bad/all that we had/take it from me/take it now, Rosemarie” we find a prodding at the past and a reconciliatory acceptance.  As “Slow Drip” comes along we step inside the ashram of face melters that guitar yogis J Mascis and Marc Bolan would gladly pay homage.  If McCaughn and Jim Wilbur are not playing this dual guitar solo back to back in triumphant glory, then the Grinch reigns supreme, and children everywhere will think of Santa as a pedophilic toy dispenser.  As Mac McCaughn sings in “Fractures in Plaster”, “as the Past proves tough to resist/and people lose grip on my wrist/won’t you?” Imagery of rolling hills coated in symphonic ecstasy, crescendoing and then fading until there is nothing left but dust and sky, resembles the amalgamate of past and present shaping the unknowing future.

Majesty Shredding shines most brightly in “Learned to Surf” with riffs and hooks catchier than FLW fishing champion “River Rat.”   This song is a movement, a call to humanity to drop all un-necessities and accessories.  With the sweet honeysuckle opening guitar riffs, that speak much louder than words, we’re forced to raise our fists with emphatic passion as brothers and sisters united under the anthem of pure unadulterated freedom.  We truly know Ernest Hemingway is smiling somewhere as we try to stop swimming and learn to surf.

In the restless search for fulfillment in a fast-paced life of overabundance and complexity, we find solace in the Superchunk’s eleven new tracks.  As we deal with the ebb and flow of constant transience where it’s sometimes difficult to connect with others, we find a common thread and connectivity between Superchunk and ourselves, the listeners: a sound transcending form and expectation, helping us to recall the true human spirit.


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