Superchunk @ Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA, September 10, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, September 21st, 2023  


Superchunk, Cable Ties

Superchunk @ Ardmore Music Hall, Ardmore, PA, September 10, 2023,

Sep 13, 2023 Photography by Matthew Berlyant Web Exclusive
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After their quieter, moodier, pandemic-inspired 2022 album Wild Loneliness came out, Superchunk went through a major line-up change. Specifically, long-time drummer Jon Wurster left the band earlier this year after thirty years. Ironically, this tour is ostensibly for the thirtieth anniversary of their 1993 absolute classic On the Mouth, their first to feature Wurster on drums (he has played on all of their subsequent albums). Nevertheless, his replacement Laura King (of the band Bat Fangs and others including Speedstick) is a perfect fit, nailing every single part perfectly and bringing her own style and swagger to the proceedings as well. Sometimes, when a band is dealt a blow of a long-time member leaving, they need new blood to refresh them, and refreshed they sure were.


Simply put, this show ROCKED as the band turned the normally staid, laid-back venue into a punk rock club. Opening with the title track (ironically, again, not on the album but the B-side of the “Mower” single, which they also played the A-side of just a few songs later), which I had also seen them do in 2010 at my request (long story) at the now gone Trocadero in Philadelphia proper, the hour and a half long set (which also featured a five-song encore) never let up for a second. Singer/guitarist Mac MacCaughan is still a human pogo stick, even at the age of fifty-six still jumping around much more than musicians half his age, and the set was served well by concentrating on material from On the Mouth (no less than seven songs were played from the album) but spanning their entire career as well.

The highlights were many, from the aforementioned “Mower” and other On the Mouth classics like “For Tension” and “Precision Auto,” which they saved for the penultimate song in the rousing encore, all the way to more modern material like “Low F” (from 2013’s underrated I Hate Music) and “Black Thread” from 2018’s What a Time to Be Alive and two songs from 2010’s comeback album and career-best Majesty Shredding (the single “Learned to Surf” and “My Gap Feels Weird,” one of their very best songs). It was noticeable that almost all of the material was sped up by at least one-and-a-half times the speed of the recorded versions, but without losing any of the melodic sense that they’re known for as well. By the end of it, concluding with another rousing version of an On the Mouth tune (the closing track “The Only Piece that You Can Get”), it felt exhilarating, like an exhale after an hour-long thrill ride down the Autobahn. What a show!


Tour openers and Merge signees Cable Ties are from Melbourne (Australia) and are on the also venerable Poison City label and were also fantastic. Sure, on paper their post-punk revivalisms have been done many times before, but rarely with this much passion, heart, and an intangible punk rock energy that was palpable from the first second of their performance. In those ways, they reminded me a little of their Melbourne forbearers Love of Diagrams, who were active in the 2000s, and who I once saw absolutely floor the crowd opening for Ted Leo in 2007 at the TLA.

Cable Ties
Cable Ties

Guitarist Nick Brown wore a shirt featuring the iconic cover of The Clean’s Boodle Boodle Boodle EP and sure enough, their closing song was that EP’s “Point that Thing Somewhere Else,” a stone-cold indie classic. While on record, vocalist and guitarist Jenny McKechnie sounds a lot like the late Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, this is less apparent live as well. I don’t know what’s in the water in Melbourne, but it’s produced more great bands in the last twenty years or so than any other city on the planet besides perhaps Philadelphia. I hope that lasts forever, to be honest.


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