Superchunk – I Hate Music

It’s the ideal way to encounter a subtle twist on a tried and true flavor – the blind taste test. My initial reaction upon hearing “FOH” on a car radio in Minneapolis was to track down the name of this energetic young pop-punk band with the spirited female singer (hardly the first time Mac McCaughan’s voice has been mistaken for a woman’s). By the chorus’ second go-around I had ID’ed them as Superchunk, but began wracking the recesses of my memory for standout songs from the band’s perfectly good mid-period albums that I had possibly filed away and forgotten. Finally the DJ announced that I Hate Music, the Chapel Hill quartet’s tenth album, had hit the shelves.

“FOH” stands for “front of the house,” a restaurant term for the customer dining area and a nod to McCaughan’s wife Andrea Reusing’s status as a nationally recognized chef. Mac repeatedly asks “How’s everything at the front of the house?” and while the lyrics offer no clear ties to the restaurant biz it’s another example of Superchunk’s rare ability to weave adult concerns into their songwriting without sounding stilted or boring – check out Mac’s elliptical references to taking his kids snow camping on last year’s fine Majesty Shredding. I Hate Music is even finer – equally energetic, more melodic, and imbued with a melancholic overtone that suits the band well, adding texture without slowing the proceedings. Its closest cousin in the ‘Chunk catalog is probably 1994’s Foolish, but without the discomfort of the Mac/Laura breakup overhang. It’s also Superchunk’s most muscular album, thanks in large part to Jon Wurster’s front-of-the-mix drumming.

On “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo” Mac grouses, “I hate music, what is it worth? Won’t bring anyone back to this earth.” Yet soon after he shrugs, “But I got nothing else so I guess here we go.” The line carries echoes of the Replacements’ “It’s too late to turn back, here we go” on “Talent Show.” In the latter case it represented the last gasps of a once great band. On I Hate Music it’s the sound of a still great band winding down on its own terms.

I Hate Music