10 Best Superchunk Songs
It’s hard to oversell Superchunk‘s legacy. As founders of Merge Records, band leaders Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance have accomplished enough to warrant a book, but the label’s success often overshadows McCaughan’s songwriting talents. His blend of punk and sugary hooks has made Superchunk crucial in the evolution of both indie and punk. And then there’s drummer Jon Wurster, who found a second career as a comedian and hosts the popular radio show ‘The Best Show with Tom Sharpling.’ Wurster also provides percussion for fellow Merge act the Mountain Goats, and he’s recorded with A.C. Newman, Ben Gibbard and Bob Mould. And yet despite the strong resume, Superchunk (rounded out by guitarist Jim Wilber) haven’t received the attention they deserve. But that was never the point. They write songs that work in front of 30, 300 or 3,000 people, and perhaps most importantly, Superchunk always seem to be having fun, taking nothing for granted. Their 10th album, ‘I Hate Music,’ is due out Aug. 20, so in advance of that release, here are the 10 Best Superchunk Songs.
‘My Gap Feels Weird’
First up on our list of the 10 Best Superchunk Songs is the lone entry from the band’s modern era. This may seem like a condemnation of new Superchunk tunes, but really, ‘Majesty Shredding’ and other recent standalone tracks have all been very good. Sure, not much beats ’90’s Superchunk, but the gang deserves a nod for keeping the quality level so high after all these years. ‘My Gap Feels Weird’ has that part where you can’t help but yell “Oh!” in each chorus. You know what part we mean.
By the late ’90s, Superchunk had become scene mainstays, and ‘Watery Hands’ is the sound of the band embracing its veteran status. Clean, less hyper and more sincere, Superchunk matures here with grace. They’re more dynamic and relaxed than one might have predicted back in the early days, but they retain a strong sense of identity.
Superchunk have contributed to numerous compilations, and in 1993, when they made this 7-inch, it’s hard to say whether the folks behind ‘Dope Guns ‘n F—ing in the Streets Volume 8′ just got lucky, or whether the band had been saving something special for this particular release. Nearly extracting the pop from their sound, the Chunk create a song that swings like a pendulum, invoking the unsteadiness of the title.
While Superchunk were always drifting just outside the mainstream, songs like ‘Throwing Things’ make the fact that they never exploded in popularity a little hard to believe. They were catchy, they were fresh, they rocked and they even made music videos. Ten years later, bands would polish their aesthetic and wind up in stadiums. But Superchunk run one of the most successful indie labels on the planet. It’s hard to think the stadium headliners were better off.
Coming in at No. 6 on our list of the 10 Best Superchunk Songs is ‘Hyper Enough,’ which many people know from an NCAA video game. Watching the music video, you have to wonder if Superchunk thought they might have a chance to make a leap to the radio — or if they even cared. ‘Hyper Enough’ is catchy enough, but the nerdy, self-aware humor was about a decade ahead of its time. Thus, ‘Hyper Enough’ plays like an anthem that never was, and it still sounds immediate today.
‘Foolish’ isn’t on the album of that same name, and it’s raw as all hell, full of screeching feedback and a melody you’re not immediately certain is going to pan out. Everything is mixed together with haste, but it’s also intimate in a weird way, and it’s surprising that it was relegated to b-side status and not cleaned up for an album. The band is surprisingly effective in mid-tempo mode, and while this change-of-pace track might stand out for its differences, it’s ultimately one of the most enduring songs in Superchunk’s discography.
‘Detroit Has a Skyline’
Check out the YouTube comments for ‘Detroit Has a Skyline,’ and you’ll see the word “classic” written over and over again. It’s noisy, full of vigor and conceit, unconcerned with its mistakes. They don’t make songs like this anymore, and that makes “classic” pretty much the best way to describe it.
If you’ve owned a car, particularly in Southern California, ‘Precision Auto’ is, at certain times in your life, the most relatable song ever recorded.
‘Driveway to Driveway’
Again, if you’ve owned a car, ‘Driveway to Driveway,’ No. 2 on our list of the 10 Best Superchunk Songs, might be a different kind of anthem. Not known for working in this more relaxed and nuanced form, Superchunk pair an unforgettable melody with a boombox-over-the-head sense of importance. It’s one of the pillars emo was built on, though not much emo would ever sound this good.
It’s hard to beat a song whose peak is the shouting of the word “motherf—er.” Because everyone eventually works for a terrible boss, the line “I’m working, but I’m not working for you” never gets old, and ‘Slack Motherf—er’ is less a song than a reference point for how you deal with life. Songs like that are rare, and perhaps more than Merge, that is Superchunk’s legacy.