Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Album Review: Superchunk - What a Time to Be Alive

What a Time to Be Alive
**** out of *****

The North Carolina based Superchunk have been in this game for over 30 years producing some screeching upbeat power/pop, emo/punk including a long recording pause before successfully returning to the fray in 2010 with Majesty Shredding. While that album dealt with universal angst of growing old, on What a Time to be Alive the group dips directly into youth punk aggression against a President/political movement they clearly hate.

There hasn't been many high profile protest punk albums regarding this administration (more in the vein of doom and gloom than out and out hate/resistance) and none have been as melodic as this release.

Opening with the title track the group gloriously states their intention from the drop while never expressly naming their villains, the message is clear with the booming chorus of "To see the rot in no disguise/ Oh what a time to be alive/ The scum, the shame, the fucking lies/ Oh what a time to be alive." Musically the track soars before the driving hardcore of "Lost My Brain" uses pounding drums to call for change. The Cheap Trick sounding "Break the Glass" calls for direct violence and protest with it's pop punk drive.   

Not many metaphors in the lyrics as Superchunk are proclaiming the world/youth has given up on this administration and its supporters. "Cloud of Hate"(direct at just over a minute) explodes with a hardcore ferocity exclaiming "You broke the world/that you're not long for" and also damning "I hope you die scared" while  "All For You" has a nonviolent person calling out for a fight over rising chords. This track picks up on the emo side of the groups lyrics proclaiming the phrase "I don't like to get hit" (which completely matches Mac McCaughan whine of a voice) but they are willing to take those punches this go around, as are a million more with them.

Perhaps the best combination of the groups tuneful nature and modern day anger comes in the form of "Erasure" which has Waxahatchee and Stephin Merritt on board to help out with vocals for the chorus. The upbeat gorgeous guitars, slamming drums and deep bass match with the dreamy vocals about hatred which is fleeting and the resistance which will outlast via the lines "Hate so graceless and so cavalier/ We don't just disappear/ Shifting shapes you're just an auctioneer/ But we're still here"

"Dead Photographers" is a burning arena ready bass heavy banger while "I Got Cut" screeches with layers of guitars as it slams/bangs with aggression, yet the band can't help but stay tuneful with a shaking tambourine and the plain as day line "All these old men won't die to soon/flesh balloons". "Black Thread" closes things by easing back on the throttle focusing on images of escapism as well as soaring backing vocals to end the album on a message and sound of positive change (as well as a smoking guitar solo).

The song "Reagan Youth" name checks the punk legends history of protest while sadly realizing that it is going to take more than defiant music this go around for things to change. That said, this is the kind of  triumphant protest music that acts as the soundtrack for change, What a Time to Be Alive injects Superchunk into the modern day discussions with an album as alive and vital as any in their 30 year career. 
Support the band, buy the album, peep some video below:

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