Superchunk, Leaves in the Gutter

Kyle Anderson

By Kyle Anderson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Leaves in the Gutter


There's a recession going on, but you'd never know it in the indie rock world. Not necessarily because small bands are immune to the economy — rather, it's that on the indies, it's always a recession. Mac McCaughan feels this twofold; he's not only Superchunk's frontman, but also the founder of Merge Records, which started as a way to distribute his group's work but eventually bloomed into a sort of SubPop East, creating a home for the likes of indie staples

Mac is still making defiant, joyful noise in the face of fear

Leaves In The Gutter features five tracks (four news songs plus an acoustic demo of "Learned to Surf"), each a brief blast of punked-up feedback topped with garage guitar solos and McCaughan's melancholy warbling. His voice has always had a world-weariness about it, and now that it has added some gravel (a natural fallout of aging — just ask Robert Pollard), he sounds even wiser. "You were never delicate," he croons on "Misfits and Mistakes," perhaps into a mirror.

The EP begins and ends with "Learned to Surf," a punchy summertime anthem, with a shambling guitar squiggle for a hook. The song might accidentally end up the theme for the current economic correction: "I can't hold my breath anymore/ I stopped sinking and learned to surf," goes the chorus. Superchunk have always been resilient — how else do you survive as a band for two decades, bouncing from North Carolina basements to Lollapalooza and back? — but 2009 may be the first time that McCaughan's brand of defiant noise in the face of fear has felt this relevant.