Superchunk has always stayed cool by never being too hot. They’re both of and above the indie culture they helped create with 20-plus years of doing things exactly how, where, and with whom they wanted. When the major labels were tossing around big money in the early ’90s to anyone that could vaguely be considered “alternative,” Superchunk made a stand, along with the similarly minded Fugazi and Ani DiFranco, by sitting the whole thing out. They hold a hallowed place among the bands that helped give birth to indie-rock (a short list that also includes Pavement, Guided By Voices, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Neutral Milk Hotel, and My Bloody Valentine), but despite their modest successes over the years, they’ve never been the It band.
Moreover, they’ve been playing the same angular, melodic pop-punk—with a few adornments over time, like strings and electronic effects—since their 1990 self-titled debut. The band’s latest, I Hate Music, could’ve been released pretty much anytime in the last two decades. The production—cleaner than their breakout 1991 album, No Pocky for Kitty, but just the right side of dirty, like 1993’s On the Mouth—captures the underdog scrappiness that was often lost on 2010’s high-gloss comeback Majesty Shredding. They aren’t courting KROQ for a slot between Imagine Dragons and alt-rock classics like “Black Hole Sun” anymore, but they’re still unleashing new anthems like “FOH,” “Void,” and “Low F,” which capture the yearning and heartache of young love as well as any of the whippersnappers currently surfing in their mighty wake (Ted Leo, the Promise Ring, and the Get Up Kids should pay frontman Mac McCaughan’s beer tab for life).
What amazes most, and there’s much to marvel at here, is the childlike wonder and sprightly sense of play that still remains after all these years. Superchunk can still bang out a mighty racket, as the thundering “Staying Home” attests, but it’s an endearing, purposeful racket that you want to hold tight to your heart. I Hate Music stands proudly among the best of the band’s redoubtable catalogue (specifically, 1994’s Foolish), cementing Superchunk’s place as the youngest old men (and woman) in rock n’ roll.