Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive
With What a Time to Be Alive, Mac McCaughan's Superchunk offer a timely reminder that punk’s greatest trick has always been to make the isolated feel less alone
A joyous proclamation? The bitter truth behind the title of Superchunk’s 11th album becomes swiftly apparent as Mac McCaughan rails furiously against the state of the world – and the US in particular. He seethes at ‘the flow of shit’ that’s stirred racial tensions in recent times, sounding furious, exhausted and resigned by turns. Relatable stuff, then.
In among all this rage, What a Time to Be Alive is their most fast-paced and energised effort since 2010’s unexpectedly mighty comeback LP Majesty Shredding. The somehow-50-year-old McCaughan adds surfy pop and 90mph ruckus to the band’s idiosyncratic melodies, as his ever-adolescent yelp shares centre stage with typically fizzing guitars and a series of star turns from drummer Jon Wurster – Cloud of Hate and a Katie Crutchfield/Stephin Merritt-bolstered Erasure feel more like the work of angry young punks than middle-aged indie rock veterans.
The key to the album comes when McCaughan cites 80s anarcho-hardcore staples Reagan Youth as a band that ‘taught you how to feel’. Initially it sounds like another ‘music-of-my-adolescence’ style anthem along the lines of The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive, but the double meaning of the punchline (‘To tell the truth / There was more than one Reagan Youth’) makes it clear that he’s lamenting a lack of lasting progress in the intervening 30-odd years.
Happily, he finds room for optimism among ‘the kids that know the truth’, placing his trust in the future as he navigates how to survive in the troublesome present. Meanwhile, this infectious record is a timely reminder that punk’s greatest trick has always been to make the isolated feel less alone.
Listen to: Erasure, Black Thread, Lost My Brain