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Superchunk

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Biography

Perhaps no band was more emblematic of the true spirit of American indie rock during the 1990s than Superchunk, the pride of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Following the D.I.Y. ethic to the letter, the bandmembers operated solely by their own rules, ignoring all passing trends by sticking to their trademark sound -- typified by the buzzing guitars and high, impassioned vocals of frontman Mac McCaughan -- and rejecting all major-label advances in favor of the unlimited freedom afforded by owning their own company, the highly successful Merge Records. Although Superchunk's resistance to the overtures of the music industry may have deprived them of the wider audience their work deserved, perhaps their greatest legacy remains their unwavering dedication to the indie tradition, a model that other up-and-coming bands often strive to emulate. Superchunk were formed in the college town of Chapel Hill in 1989 by singer/guitarist McCaughan, bassist Laura Ballance, drummer Chuck Garrison, and guitarist Jack McCook. Initially dubbed merely Chunk -- the "Super" prefix was later added to avoid confusion with a similarly named New York City avant jazz band -- the group issued its debut single, What Do I, on the Merge label, which was jointly run by McCaughan and Ballance. The follow-up was 1990's epochal Slack Motherfucker, MacCaughan's blistering tirade against a lazy Kinko's co-worker. The single was immediately hailed on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the definitive indie anthems of the era, and with the subsequent release of their self-titled debut LP, Superchunk were widely celebrated among the most promising young bands in America. As the success of acts like Nirvana and Pearl Jam made Seattle the early-'90s music scene du jour, label heads scrambled to locate the next alternative rock hotbed. Chapel Hill became the consensus choice, and Superchunk were tapped as the Next Big Thing. The quartet -- which had subsequently exchanged McCook for guitarist Jim Wilbur -- soon found itself in the middle of a major-label bidding war, but the bandmembers defiantly stuck to their guns, remaining on Merge for their brilliant 1991 sophomore effort No Pocky for Kitty, recorded by Steve Albini and distributed by Matador. A singles collection, Tossing Seeds, followed in 1992, and a year later Superchunk -- now with new drummer Jon Wurster -- returned with the superb On the Mouth, highlighted by the singles "Mower" and "The Question Is How Fast." In addition to Superchunk's relentless tour itinerary and prolific recording schedule, McCaughan released the 1994 LP I Hope Your Heart Is Not Brittle, the first full-length release from his side project Portastatic. Even as media attention shifted elsewhere, Superchunk forged ahead, following the release of 1994's Foolish with Incidental Music, a second compilation of singles, B-sides, compilation tracks, and other assorted offerings. Released in 1995, Here's Where the Strings Come In heralded a subtle refinement of their core sound, and was supported by a tour on the second stage at that summer's Lollapalooza festival; the first single and video, the surging "Hyper Enough," was even a minor hit. A brief hiatus preceded the release of the 1996 EP The Laughter Guns, the full-length Indoor Living appeared the next year, and Superchunk returned in 1999 with Come Pick Me Up. Ten years on, Superchunk remained as prolific as ever with their eighth full-length release, Come Pick Me Up, which arrived in 2001. A third collection of singles, the double-disc Cup of Sand, followed in 2003, compiling the band's singles and assorted rare tracks from 1995 to 2002. Superchunk contributed songs to various compilations over the following years, including a humorous duet with Meatwad, the meatball-shaped character from Comedy Central's Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which ultimately appeared on the show's soundtrack. They also released material on their own, including the 2009 EP Leaves in the Gutter. The band's ninth album, Majesty Shredding, which featured a horn section and guest vocals from Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, arrived the following September. The band's next album was tinged with melancholy, as several songs dealt with their grief over the death of production designer David Doernberg, a longtime friend. Superchunk released I Hate Music in the summer of 2013, promoting it with a monthlong U.S. tour. Due to worsening hearing issues, Laura Ballance didn't go on the road with the band this time around; she was replaced on bass by Jason Narducy of Split Single. He also played with Wurster in Bob Mould's band. After the tour, the band dialed things back and the members concentrated on other things, like running Merge and, in Wurster's case, running a hilarious Instragram page, but Superchunk were sparked back into life by the results of the 2016 presidential election. McCaughan began writing songs soon after the results came in and was finished by February of 2017, at which time they began recording with Beau Sorenson, who they had worked with on I Hate Music. The album was recorded in a rush of energy and, for the first time in a while, had no keyboards. It did have a wide range of guest vocalists though, including Sabrina Ellis of A Giant Dog, Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, David Bazan, and Stephin Merritt. Two songs recorded for the album were released for charity in 2017; the proceeds from "I Got Cut" went to Planned Parenthood, and those from "Break the Glass" went to the Southern Poverty Law Center. What a Time to Be Alive was released in February of 2018 and the band headed out on a monthlong tour immediately after. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   Hyper Enough
  3.   Driveway to Driveway
  4.   Detroit Has a Skyline
  5.   Without Blinking
  6.   Skip Steps 1 & 3
  7.   Saving My Ticket
  8.   Yeah, It's Beautiful Here Too
  9.   Like a Fool
  10.   Why Do You Have to Put a Date on Everything
  11.   Animated Airplanes Over Germany
  12.   Hello Hawk
  13.   Watery Hands
  14.   Slack Motherfucker
  15.   Martinis on the Roof
  16.   The Question Is How Fast
  17.   Learned to Surf
  18.   100,000 Fireflies
  19.   What a Time to Be Alive
  20.   Crossed Wires
  21.   Silverleaf and Snowy Tears
  22.   Digging for Something
  23.   Punch Me Harder
  24.   Throwing Things
  25.   Seed Toss
  26.   Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  27.   Good Dreams
  28.   Mower
  29.   Rope Light
  30.   Fractures in Plaster
  31.   Misfits & Mistakes
  32.   Here's Where the Strings Come In
  33.   Precision Auto
  34.   Package Thief
  35.   Me & You & Jackie Mittoo
  36.   FOH
  37.   This Summer
  38.   Keeping Track
  39.   1000 Pounds
  40.   Cursed Mirror
  41.   The Popular Music
  42.   Reagan Youth
  43.   You Can Always Count on Me (In the Worst Way)
  44.   The First Part
  45.   Come Pick Me Up
  46.   Slow
  47.   The Breadman
  48.   Forged It
  49.   Night of Chill Blue
  50.   Dead Photographers
  51.   Night Creatures
  52.   Still Feed Myself
  53.   Invitation
  54.   Never Too Young to Smoke
  55.   Sidewalk
  56.   Winter Games
  57.   Garlic
  58.   Cast Iron
  59.   All for You
  60.   I'll Be Your Sister
  61.   Anything Could Happen
  62.   Drool Collection
  63.   Home at Dawn
  64.   Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus
  65.   Out on the Wing
  66.   Who Needs Light
  67.   Every Single Instinct
  68.   Creek
  69.   It's So Hard to Fall in Love
  70.   Low F
  71.   So Convinced
  72.   Cloud of Hate
  73.   Clover
  74.   Train From Kansas City
  75.   Foolish
  76.   Tiny Bombs
  77.   Does Your Hometown Care?
  78.   Makeout Bench
  79.   Blending In
  80.   A Collection of Accounts
  81.   Sick to Move
  82.   Hot Tubes
  83.   What Do I
  84.   Bad Choices
  85.   Lost My Brain
  86.   I Got Cut
  87.   What Can We Do
  88.   Your Theme
  89.   Out of the Sun
  90.   Breaking Down
  91.   Trees of Barcelona
  92.   Staying Home
  93.   Overflows
  94.   Slow Drip
  95.   Rosemarie
  96.   My Gap Feels Weird
  97.   Everything at Once
  98.   Screw It Up
  99.   Freaks in Charge
  100.   Thin Air
  101.   Beat My Guest
  102.   Her Royal Fisticuffs
  103.   Reg
  104.   The Length of las Ramblas
  105.   What Do You Look Foward To?
  106.   Art Class
  107.   Act Surprised
  108.   The Animal Has Left Its Shell
  109.   Florida's on Fire
  110.   Phone Sex
  111.   Rainy Streets
  112.   Flawless
  113.   Trash Heap
  114.   Untied
  115.   New Low
  116.   I Guess I Remembered It Wrong
  117.   Pulled Muscle
  118.   Smarter Hearts
  119.   White Noise
  120.   Swinging
  121.   Tower
  122.   Not Tomorrow
  123.   Half a Life
  124.   With Bells On
  125.   Pink Clouds
  126.   Low Branches
  127.   Connecticut
  128.   Ribbon
  129.   European Medicine
  130.   Under Our Feet
  131.   Song for Marion Brown
  132.   Nu Bruises
  133.   Marquee
  134.   Unbelievable Things
  135.   Eastern Terminal
  136.   Sunshine State
  137.   Baxter
  138.   Shallow End
  139.   For Tension
  140.   Fader Rules
  141.   Basement Life
  142.   My Noise
  143.   Fishing
  144.   Cool
  145.   Brand New Love
  146.   Water Wings
  147.   Kicked In
  148.   Revelations
  149.   Stretched Out
  150.   In a Stage Whisper
  151.   Press
  152.   Swallow That
  153.   Down the Hall
  154.   Green Flowers, Blue Fish
  155.   The Majestic
  156.   30 Xtra
  157.   Knock Knock Knock
  158.   From the Curve
  159.   Erasure
  160.   Certain Stars
  161.   Break the Glass
  162.   June Showers
  163.   Sprung a Leak
  164.   Honey Bee
  165.   Let It Go
  166.   Void
  167.   Girl U Want
  168.   Becoming a Speck
  169.   The Only Piece That You Get
  170.   Late Century Dream
  171.   Cadmium
  172.   Black Thread
  173.   On the Mouth