Superchunk: An Indie-Rock Role Model

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Superchunk i

Superchunk in 2010 doesn't sound entirely different from the band that became a sensation in 1992. Jason Arthurs hide caption

toggle caption Jason Arthurs

Superchunk in 2010 doesn't sound entirely different from the band that became a sensation in 1992.

Jason Arthurs

Back in the '90s, Superchunk defined the sound and the ethos of indie rock with a self-released single called "Slack Mother- - - - - -." It's not an anthem for laziness. Just the opposite; the key line is, "I'm workin' / but I'm not workin' for you." And that work paid off: This year, the band's business offspring, Merge Records, has released three Top 10 albums by Spoon, She & Him and, most recently, The Arcade Fire, which scored the label's very first No. 1 hit. After 21 years together, Superchunk is an indie-rock role model for these young bands. And I'm glad that, between marketing meetings and raising families, they're still making great music.

Superchunk 2010 doesn't sound entirely different from Superchunk 1992. The melodies are still wound so tight they sound ready to break, with Mac McCaughan's voice still sounding like a bullied twerp finally pushed to his limit. And the guitars — goodness, those beautiful guitars — still lurch and squeal like hair-metal dudes in a cat fight.

Majesty Shredding, which Superchunk could just as soon have called Shredding Majesty, fits the textbook definition of indie-rock: the pomp and spectacle of marketplace rock 'n' roll turned inside out to show the seams, exposing the men and women behind the curtain who aren't much different from the rest of us. Is it artistic posturing, just like the guys in leather pants do? Sure. But it's also, apparently, a sustainable lifestyle. And I hope they keep it going long enough to show their grandkids how it's done.

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