Release Date: Sep 14, 2010
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Though they never broke up, North Carolina's powerpop-punk charmers went quiet for much of the last decade, while frontman Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance set about turning their Merge record label into one of the US's classiest indie powerhouses (Arcade Fire, Spoon etc). A trickle of new singles in recent times suggested a return to their speedy, fuzzy mid-90s form, but few could have dared hope Majesty Shredding would be this good – Digging for Something, Slow Drip, Fractures in Plaster, to name but three, are as canny, catchy and goosebump-exciting as anything they've written. There's a beautiful balance at play with Superchunk – between punk-out directness and tricksy detail in their twin-guitar rush; between angst and euphoria in McCaughan's still-boyish yelp; lyrically, between the everyday and the oddly allegorical, and it's rarely sounded better than on Majesty Shredding.
For an album nine years in the making, Majesty Shredding sounds awfully effortless. I guess it's not really surprising, considering Superchunk has been churning out solid records for 20-plus years. So while the fact that the follow-up to 2001's Here's to Shutting Up is finally here might be shocking for long-time fans, that Majesty Shredding is one of the finest rock records of 2010 should surprise no one.
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.
Rarer than a subtle Matt Bellamy solo is the band who can stand astride the twin pillars of intelligence and sheer fun within their musical scope. Realistically, the two seem diametrically opposed. To be ‘smart’ is to play clever tricks with tempo, time and densely intellectual lyrics that cause some to weep and some to snarl. And to be simply ‘fun’ suggests a rejection of the true ethics of music in favour of nothing more than beer, loose women and a thorough exploration of the power chord.
College rock may be little more than a fond memory to most, but before [a]Weezer[/a] gave geeks a mainstream figurehead there were [a]Superchunk[/a], thrashing out lo-fi pop gems to anyone who would listen. Back with their first proper album in nine years, somehow they sound younger and hungrier than ever, thundering through these taut, vital songs at breakneck speed. ‘[b]Majesty Shredding[/b]’ – even the title sounds like some kind of student in-joke – makes zero concession to the 21st century, praise be.
Review Summary: Alternative veterans return to remind us what pop-punk should sound like. Chapel Hill was quite a fruitful place for indie rock during the early ‘90s with the likes of Polvo, Archers of Loaf and Superchunk all emerging around the same time. While Polvo are recognized as one of the pioneers of math rock and Archers of Loaf’s ‘Icky Mettle’ is seen as one of the most underappreciated alternative rock albums of the 90’s, it’s arguably Superchunk who have had the biggest impact on music since their formation.
In a year when its peers have made some valiant comebacks, and at a time when young upstarts directly or indirectly inspired by its old-school sound are spearheading a spirited punk-pop revival, leave it to Superchunk to show ‘em all how things are done. Returning with Majesty Shredding, their first full-length release in almost a decade, the underground legends don’t waste any time proving that they haven’t lost a single step, front-loading the album with its most propulsive number “Digging for Something” at the top of the track list. As if to make it clear the quartet isn’t simply going through the motions, the opener pulls out all the stops, with pounding rhythms, relentless riffs, and lead singer Mac McCaughan holding nothing back in his vocals, offering up his trademark out-of-tune falsetto yelps.
The last time Superchunk released an album, you could've conceivably called them an emo band, or at least a proto-emo band, without starting a fight. Here's to Shutting Up came out in 2001, when bands like the Promise Ring and the Get Up Kids were indie fixtures. Those bands stole plenty of winking heartfelt whoa-oh-ohs and ragged sugar-rush tempos from Superchunk's playbook.
Superchunk, the Chapel Hill, North Carolina-born indie pioneers, formed in 1989; I was a mere three years old. That means that most of the "indie" music, and by extension a lot of other rock genres, I was raised on and enjoy now was directly influenced by this very band. That’s a lot of pressure; thankfully, they don’t seem to care. For Majesty Shredding, their first album since 2001, they continue to do what they do best: make good alternative music without a care in the world.
Of all the 1990s acts reconvening for albums, none picks up where it left off quite like Superchunk does on its first LP in close to 10 years. The Chapel Hill quartet's label, founded by singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance, is now home to heavies like the Arcade Fire and Spoon, but Superchunk was its original anthem band, and Majesty Shredding doesn't let up over 11 songs. "Mister, keep your memories" opens "My Gap Feels Weird," and the subtext is clear: Superchunk is older, but there's no whiff of nostalgia.
Jubilant, sunny feelings coupled with a sense of jaded, measured hindsight. Mischa Pearlman 2010 Superchunk's music never really translated over here in the UK. Over in the States, however, back in the early and mid-90s, they helped define a sound that countless bands, from Sleater-Kinney to The Get Up Kids, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead to Modest Mouse, The Dismemberment Plan to Ted Leo, have continued to shape and perpetuate to this day.