When it comes to where they stand in the music timeline, Superchunk deserves to be looked at as pop punk pioneers. I know that’ll irk some people in some social circles, but the band from the North Carolina college town of Chapel Hill started fusing guitar driven punk with upbeat pop in the late ‘80s way before any other act had a similar approach. Mac McCaughan’s trademark voice that seems to never age makes the music stand out in an emotionally honest way. Their twelfth studio album, Wild Loneliness, that came out on February 25 via their own label at Merge Records might be their most wide-ranging release yet.
There’s still that punk energy, but there are acoustic foundations and orchestral elements exuding a more well-rounded sound. Along with McCaughan on guitar & vocals, guitarist Jim Wilbur, bassist Laura Ballance and drummer John Wurster are surrounded by other instruments making their presence felt. There are horns, a piano and even string arrangements at play while adding a variety of dimensions to each song. It seems to be more of a communal effort this time around rather than the quartet working within the boundaries of their instruments and their collective vision. The music has a quality that’s more than the sum of its parts. I really enjoy the open-minded approach behind the songwriting and it leaves a lasting impression on the senses.
The consistent melody within “Endless Summer” along with the harmonies make the song shine. It also conveys important messages about climate change and the fear people have about the future concerning it. “Highly Suspect” has the horns coming in through the background courtesy of Kelly Pratt and Wurster justifies the fact that he’s one of the best drummers alive with his beats and fills. Those strings I previously mentioned give “This Night” an orchestral vibe and you can thank Owen Pallett for it. There’s a baroque quality present as well and overall it’s a fantastic song.
I always appreciate it when a band goes outside the box and Superchunk accomplished this with Wild Loneliness. I also appreciate that they maintained their artistic identity while doing so which isn’t an easy thing to do. The album highlights the songwriting craft and how versatile it can be without having the musician go beyond themselves. There’s some good storytelling and introspective messaging going on which exemplifies the substance of the music. If you’re a child or an adult of the ‘90s then chances are you know about Superchunk in some way so give this album a listen for the sake of musical evolution.
Order Wild Loneliness by Superchunk HERE
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