Superchunk @ Stereo, Glasgow, 27 May
After a 17-year absence, legendary 90s pop-punk rockers Superchunk return to Glasgow with a triumphant show off the back of their most explicitly political album
No one expected that feisty pop-punk rockers Superchunk would make their live return to Glasgow as a band newly indebted with the spirit of political protest, to the point where this year’s What a Time to Be Alive is considered one of the most potent (and catchy) documents of the current chaotic American landscape to be recorded. Then again, the diehards kitted out solely in Superchunk merchandise in Stereo’s front row probably didn’t think it would – as bandleader Mac McCaughan alludes to after clambering on stage – take 17 years for them to reappear at all.
What follows is a full throttle set, the length of a marathon but run at the pace of a 100m sprint. It's filled with the most urgent of songs from their 2018 record, a panoply of their most recognisable shout-a-longs, and a smattering of more obscure crowd requests, including Package Thief, which has one red T-shirted fan leaping with joy.
The North Carolina band have a daunting discography, especially for listeners born after the release of their 1990 self-titled debut. Only one track from that album – main set closer Slack Motherfucker – is given a run out, which is odd considering the mounting legacy it has gathered. Still, it's a fitting pre-encore finish, with the bratty cussing of its chorus filling the crushingly hot basement, much of the audience chanting in unison.
McCaughan is a restless ball of energy, pogoing around, falling into his bandmates. It’s a physical come-up from the night’s openers Rev Magnetic, though not any more or less impressive. The Glasgow-based band, led by sometime Mogwai member Luke Sutherland, are a welcome addition to the growing shoegaze canon. The short-lived, much maligned genre is thankfully seeing a recent resurgence thanks to comebacks from the very best of its original groups like Slowdive and Ride, which are better than they have any right to be, and the mix of shoegaze and its sister genre dream pop, bringing starry-eyed wonder to fans from bands like Japanese Breakfast and Beach House.
Rev Magnetic are doing something a little different, mixing the loud walls of noise and pedal effects with glitchy, auto-tuned vocals that bear a close resemblance to Kurt Wagner’s singing on Lambchop's 2016 record FLOTUS. Their set is surprising and overwhelming, and if ever there was a support act at recent Glasgow gigs leaving you with the urge to find out more, it was this.
As for the crowd’s returning heroes, Superchunk's show is emotional in a different way – adrenaline fuelled and upbeat, even if the anxiety in their new songs is plain to see. They return to one of the most bizarre, crowd-pleasing power-chord sucker punches. After drawing the climax of night ender Fishing out with enough feedback squall to fill a whole tour, McCaughan and drummer (and noted humourist) Jon Wurster seamlessly switch spots only for Wurster to deliver a cover medley of Scottish classics from Teenage Fanclub, as well as a couple of Ultravox and Big Country tunes thrown in for good measure. It’s funny, silly and collapses in a bit of a gasping heap, which, after a performance of such high energy, makes total sense.