Sometimes a band needs a little break, especially around the time the creative juices stop flowing and the members can’tstand being in the same room as each other. The process of making an album can stagnate quickly, and fanhood goodwill can disappear even quicker- when playing music stops being ‘fun’ and starts being ‘work’ it’stime for a hiatus.
Which is exactly what indie-artefacts Superchunkdid in prep for their ninth studio record Majesty Shredding. It’s beenalmost a decade since the band’s last studio full-length, and theyfeasibly spent that time maintaining Merge Records (which they own) andliving life outside of rock music. Yet they’ve returned almostexactly as they left.
Majesty Shredding sounds a lot like Superchunk. They’ve not changed the way they do things once sincethey started playing all the way back in the late ’80s, yet somehowthey aren’t stagnating. They play the same energetic jump-around poprock they’ve always played and with every other band that would be apoint of contention, but Superchunk have the power to seduce even themost jaded listener over the course of a record. They look back to anearlier, more centralized world of independent music but they don’tget misty eyed over it. Instead they play their hearts out like theDIY-freaks they are, beyond the wrinkles, the grey hair or the agingband name.
Picking out individual songs off Majesty Shredding doesn’t make alot of sense, because frankly speaking, these songs sound pretty muchthe same. It might even be a more fundamental album than somethinglike Here Where The Strings Come In. All the fuzz andintentionally-cluttered agit-rhythms have been drained out, leaving thecrusty Built To Spill-ian guitar pop that sounds like it wasmade by an older, less hip-sensitive band.
That’s not to say thestrings don’t come in. Fractures In Plaster is a perfect five-minuteart-rock blast, complete with some sighing violins. But by and largethis is Superchunk at their most economical. Majesty Shredding is ariskless but ultimately enthralling listen, and its only really strikingaspect is just how seamlessly it fits into the rest of the band’scatalogue, considering they’ve been almost entirely absent for the pastdecade.
It could be said that a work as strong as Majesty Shredding cementsSuperchunk as an important band or a permanent indie fixture, butthat’s a bit of a misnomer. If anything this record is simply proofthat Superchunk are going to make the music they want to makeregardless of whether it fits into a modern context or not. They’reone of the few bands completely comfortable in their own skin, andthat makes them easy to root for. On this evidence they’re still capable of turning in solidalbums, which helps too.