by Carl Wilson
I went rather beyond the terse mandate of Tea With Chris on Friday. So I thought I would be brief today.
Above is the hottest, cleanest vein-infusion of joy that I’ve had in a while, Superchunk’s TV appearance this week, with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats playing the role of a (much more sober) Bez-style hypeman, and a throng of the ‘Chunk’s NYC friends’n’family serving as boogie-woogie peanut gallery.
The contrast with the self-conscious appearance of Pavement (whom I also love, don’t get me wrong) on the Colbert Report this week couldn’t be stronger: Superchunk represent the anti-slacker version of 90s “indie” culture; though they sort of popularized the term post-Bob Dobbs/pre-Linklater, it was actually in the inverse: “I’m working/ But I’m not working for you/ Slack motherfucker.” That was the harder-beating heart of the ethos, even if it didn’t turn out to be “the winning side of history.” (Pavement’s musical influence is overrated and Superchunk’s underrated, for one; for another, with Superchunk you don’t actually need quote marks around indie.)
But forget subkultchura beancounting. Back to the world: First, consider, here’s an art project whose two central figures were able to break up their intimate relationship without breaking up the project (or a related one, their record label), and who have come back after a long hiatus with a record of new songs rather than just a rehash, a task at which most of their “bigger” contemporaries have failed. (And yeah, a lot of the new album Majesty Shredding is actually this good, as you can hear on the Merge website.)
It’s a matter of tint and shade, of angles and apertures, but for Superchunk, so-called Gen X “irony” was the freightage of open-eyed realism, not preemptive defeatism. Their music always said the necessity of taking a tragic view of life can be countered with enough palliatives – jokes, rhythm, shouting, friendship, travel, velocity, did I mention jokes? – that it’s a damn fair facsimile of an antidote. (“Welcome to art class, and yes it does involve shaking your ass.”) They insist that bliss is not ignorance. Exhale. Repeat.
Please apply freely to your local political, professional, romantic or existential situation. And pogo twice daily until symptoms improve.