Superchunk

What a Time to Be Alive

Merge

Feb 16, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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What a Time to Be Alive combines the energetic catchiness of classic Superchunk with a raw punk rock that both harkens back to the band's early days and rallies against the current political climate like the spirit of punk is meant to do. "Reagan Youth," a tribute to the '80s anarcho-punks of the same name, blends both sounds in the same song, singing of the values of such bands that offered teenagers a critique of the political system. The line "Now we know the truth, there was more than one Reagan Youth" offers up the crushing realization that at the same time as the counterculture was protesting, others were growing up learning how to take those politics to more extremes.

The punchy melodic title track could have easily been at home on any of the band's early '90s records, but it's the state of our world today that got Superchunk writing and recording directly after the 2016 election. If you follow them on Twitter, you know how politically involved the band are. What in happier days may have turned out to be an ode to the synthpop greats, "Erasure," with its guest vocalists Stephin Merritt and Katie Crutchfield, instead points to that sick trait of power that seeks to obliterate all traces of opposition, instead of learning to live with our differences.

"Bad Choices" is more classic lively Superchunk. Its chorus of "I've got a lifetime of shit decisions, might never learn from them, but all your bad choices are gonna cause suffering" is obviously pointed at Trump and co. but also speaks of that trick of the human condition where we easily espy faults in others but are almost powerless to correct them in ourselves. "Dead Photographers" could have slotted perfectly into Incidental Music while "Cloud of Hate" harkens back to the band's manic early singles.

All the raucousness of What a Time to Be Alive remains positive and upbeat despite contemplating situations of which so many despair. But the highlight of the album comes at the very end. Slowing to a more mid-tempo and melodically reminiscent of Mac McCaughan's last solo album, "Black Thread" is a lovely pop song in the way only Superchunk can do. (www.superchunk.com)

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