What a Time to be Alive
Superchunk are legends, blah blah blah. They’ve never moved my needle, I have to admit. Their first bold splash into the world, the song ‘Slack Motherfucker,’ was 10 times better when fIREHOSE covered it. I’ve long admired their business acumen, mind you. Frontman Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance founded Merge Records in 1989 to release the music of Superchunk and their friends. And this is not a sarcastic, Pitchfork-like dig. Merge Records is one of the great indie labels, it has integrity and it treats its artists with respect. As illustration, I point to the fact that Arcade Fire, one of the biggest bands in the world, has remained on the label throughout its career.
But the band itself, meh. So when What a Time to be Alive came across my desk last week, my first thought wasn’t kind. But, I pressed play. And I was glad I did. This is, my friends, one kick ass album.
These are dark days. The election of Donald Trump as president has exposed all the ugly little things that have been crawling around under the rocks and in the corners of the nation. They have come out in the light of day. And this is music for our times. It is quite the feat to write an album like this and not drop names, but Superchunk do so. Perhaps they don’t have to, we all know what’s going on.
And maybe they feel it more, based as they are in the liberal bastion of Chapel Hill in the purple state of North Carolina.
The title track is a pretty obvious sarcastic blast of punkdom. And the album continues in this vein all the way through. 11 songs in 33 minutes. ‘I Got Cut’ references old white men in politics, ‘Reagan Youth,’ well, yeah, that’s obvious.
It’s taken a quarter of a century and the election of Donald Trump to get Superchunk to cut an album I like, I thank them for that. But, what I find even more remarkable is that they have been rocking out since 1989, they’re all in their early 50s; bands of this kind of veteran status aren’t supposed to sound so hip, so vital and so necessary at this point in their career. And yet, here we are.