Ignored 41: Superchunkish


A Google search doesn’t give any firm proof that Superchunk’s publishing company is (actually) called All the Songs Sound the Same. Aside from mention in a number of articles and blog posts.

Check the liner notes on your fave ‘hunk album. It’s legit.

Given drummer Jon Wurster’s penchant for comedy/theatre, it’s possible this could have just been a goof on fans and haters alike, and a reclaiming of the most common attack of the band’s loud, fast first 10 years. It’s a fair statement either way (at least for their first four full-lengths) but considering that collective tune was awesome, should we care if all the songs sound the same? Probably not.

Loosely related, Superchunk frontman and Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan recently guested on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. He gave a fairly dense account of the past quarter century of his band and the slow, steady incline of Merge itself. Considering the label was initially just a vehicle for getting Superchunk records out (and even they bailed for their first three studio albums), Merge is most definitely “a big deal” in 2014, the home base for top sellers like the Arcade Fire and Spoon as well as the rights holder for the (slightly insane) uptick in Neutral Milk Hotel’s fandom.

Superchunk is still putting out albums on occasion, the most recent being last year’s well-received I Hate Music. New Superchunk songs haven’t really sounded like “that other Superchunk song” since 1997 or so. That year’s Indoor Living full-length added a ton of keyboards to the mix, seemingly in a conscious effort to mature their sound… or something. It was totally fine but personally, I miss “that other Superchunk song” that they allegedly repurposed over and over and over.

… and over.

Ironically, 1994’s full-length Foolish seemed like a conscious effort to mature as well, especially the lead-off, pseudo-title track “Like a Fool” that played at quarter speed and featured McCaughan cooing rather than customarily yelping.

A huge departure at the time but then, the band totally fell off the wagon with 1995’s Here’s Where the Strings Come In, an awesome album that had a loose geography/air travel theme and a minor, minor hit (“Hyper Enough”) that almost sounded like the band trying to set a purposeful counterweight to Foolish‘s off-speed stuff.

ANYWAY, if Superchunk supposedly wrote the exact same song several dozen times between 1989 and 1995, what should be considered the most Superchunkish Superchunk song?

To answer this important question, I took a sample of every Superchunk song that appeared on their first five full-length albums (Superchunk, No Pocky for Kitty, On the Mouth, Foolish, Here’s Where the Strings Come In) plus their first two singles/rarity compilations (Tossing Seeds: Singles 89-91, Incidental Music 91-95).

I omitted a few tracks, since they weren’t Superchunk originals:
Chills, The sing “Night of Chill Blue”
Flys, The sing “Night Creatures”
Magnetic Fields, The sing “100,000 Fireflies”
Motörhead sing “I’ll Be Your Sister”
Sebadoh sings “Brand New Love”
Sebadoh sings “It’s So Hard to Fall in Love”
Shangri-Las, The sing “Train from Kansas City”
Verlaines, The sing “Lying in State”

In the case of early singles “Slack Motherfucker”, “Seed Toss”, “My Noise”, “Cast Iron” and “Mower”, they all appeared as singles prior to appearing on full-lengths so I omitted the album versions since… I dunno, single versions tend to be cooler. I also axed the acoustic version of “Throwing Things”. Anecdotally, it’s quiet. It shouldn’t win.

Lastly, for the compilation tracks, I denoted the year the song was first released rather than the year the compilation was released. This worked out great with the exception of the previously unreleased “Makeout Bench” which was recorded way back in 1990 but didn’t surface until Incidental music dropped in 1995. Great track BTW!

So this leaves a sample of 75 songs. Of these songs, each song will be analyzed in four categories with each category given a 1.0 score is the tune ranks “most average”:
– Year of release (by year)
– Song length (in seconds)
– Song title (in words)
– Speed (in a subjective scale of 1 being “slow”, 2 being “kinda slow”, 3 being “average”, 4 being “kinda fast” and 5 being “fast”)

Think of it as a 4.0 GPA average crossed with rotisserie baseball. In short, this is massively nerdy.

Based on these rankings, the more Superchunkish Superchunk song would have these characteristics:
– Released in 1993
– 215 seconds long
– Two word song title
– Speed = fast

The closest match is this song…

Here is the Top 20 ranking of “Most Superchunkish Superchunk Songs” by this rating system. Enjoy!



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