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Superchunk, ‘I Hate Music’ – Album Review

Merge

On the list of things that don’t get enough credit, consistency is right up there with single parents, teachers and beans. Sure, we praise Cal Ripkin Jr. for taking routine to superhuman levels, but think of bands that have released five albums — then think of how many have released five albums that are actually good.

Then, to put it in further perspective, think about Superchunk, who have been releasing good albums for decades, all the while maintaining the same general sound without becoming tiresome or repetitive. With Superchunk, consistency is an art form, and they are the masters.

And yes, there are inconsequential moments on ‘I Hate Music,’ the band’s first album since 2010′s ‘Majesty Shredding,’ but Superchunk also manage to push their sound subtly to new places. The slow build of ‘Overflows,’ for instance, makes for one of the most instantly affecting and heartfelt few minutes they’ve put on record. The brief ‘Me & You & Jackie Mittoo’ features the album’s title in a lyric that completes the thought with a realization that music can’t bring back the dead. If it seems contradictory to consider something so grim over a pop-punk melody, the overarching adolescent dissatisfaction with the universe warrants a youthful-sounding delivery method. Hearing these 40-something Merge Records founders make this music, age has never felt more like just a number.

Elsewhere, ‘I Hate Music’ is business as usual and as enjoyable as ever. The six-minute-plus closer ‘What Can We Do?’ wasn’t the best candidate to go long with, and Superchunk seemingly extend the track more for the sake of novelty than because it actually demanded it, but this is just a small flaw in an album that, like other Superchunk LPs, won’t really change how you view the world or mend your broken heart. It will, however, bring you joy, give you a reason to see them live and keep you interested for the next four years, until they release another one.

And that is what this band has likely always wanted. It’s staggering to think of all the bands Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan have put into the world via Merge, and all of the people they’ve touched, both directly and indirectly, through their devotion to music. Maybe Superchunk and Ripkin aren’t so different after all.

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