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Superchunk: Majesty Shredding (Album Review)

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. Putting their actual music aside for a moment, Superchunk’s do-it-yourself ethics and influence has spanned so far over the years that the little record label they created to record and release their own albums has grown into something much, much larger over the years; Merge Records, you may have heard of it? The indie label who’ve just landed their first #1 Billboard release with Arcade Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’ and who are home to dozens upon dozens more important, critically acclaimed indie bands of both our generation and the last, including Neutral Milk Hotel, Dinosaur Jr and The Mountain Goats? Superchunk did that.

And then there’s the music. Their up-tempo, hook focused rock, exemplified by singles like “Precision Auto”, was doing what bands like The Get Up Kids were hailed for doing nearly a decade later. Though they didn’t pioneer this movement as much as they’ve done with their label, they played a huge part in nurturing it to the heights it aspired to then and has done now, through the steady and consistent releases of seven albums in about ten years – the last being 2001’s ‘Here’s to Shutting Up’. The hiatus that took them off the map was simply a result of priorities; some band members had kids, some ran a record company and others simply moved to a different city. They made a point of not breaking up though and did so with shows and rehearsals sporadically spread out through the years, the culmination of which has brought us here: Majesty Shredding.

Where pop-punk now is more widely known for bands who are heavier on the pop and lower on the punk, Superchunk’s influence gave us bands like Dillinger Four and The Thermals, and as such Majesty Shredding opens with a song that reminds us of everything the genre can be. “Digging For Something” is blissfully energetic, with McCaughan’s youthful vocals rising far above the ‘oh-oh-oh’ backing vocals in the chorus and the wailing guitar in the bridge, and it’s a perfect way for the band to introduce themselves to a new generation of listeners. Majesty Shredding is, if anything, lively. The term may just exemplify everything about the album; McCaughan’s vocals are upper-register and quick spoken, the guitars are noisy and, together, the hooks are plentiful. Other songs like “Rope Light”, “Crossed Wires” and “My Gap Feels Weird” are bound to the same ethics: make it loud, make it catchy, make it fun. The maturity in these songs is exactly what the current crop of All Time Low’s are missing, sacrificing it for gloss and melodies dumbed down to the point of indistinction.

Based on these credentials, it’s unfortunate that a band like this even needed an introduction. It’s a shame that the legacy of their music hasn’t sustained as much as the influence of their values but Majesty Shredding is a chance at rectifying that. It’s an album as assured of itself as you would expect of these veterans and Majesty Shredding is 42-minutes of wildly consistent, front-to-back pop-punk and alternative rock gems. It has the potential to win the hearts of loads of new fans and even if the band choose to end their recording career here (and I hope they don’t), they have a more than solid catalog to keep those fans satisfied. The thing is, despite their participation in the bustling, creative and innovative 90’s scene, Majesty Shredding might just be their best album yet.