Superchunk, Come Pick Me Up (1999)

For almost ten years Superchunk (Jon Wurster, drums; Mac McCaughan, guitar, vocals; Jim Wilbur, guitar; Laura Balance, bass) have written, recorded, toured and distributed their own records—a trillion of them plus singles and EPs—while also signing bands, selling T-shirts, doing press, and answering Mergeʼs telephone. In an ironic twist, Superchunk has become what people in the ʼ70s and ʼ80s referred to the ʼ60s superstar-hippies as: survivors. Yet this pseudo-tribute, tantamount to having a statue made in your honor while you are still alive (a nice thought, but really, Iʼm not dead yet), just doesnʼt do justice to the continued power of Superchunkʼs music or its continued impact on underground rock ʼnʼ roll.

Its new album, Come Pick Me Up — produced by Jim OʼRourke, the Quincy Jones of Americaʼs pop-avant-garde — is an open love letter to Superchunkʼs DIY followers, a love that is at times critical and menacing but never distant or removed. Instead, in songs such as “1000 Pounds” and “Tiny Bombs” Superchunk has provided a stirring document, full of praise and self-doubt, distant longing and public confession, about what it means to be punk rock long after the thrill of living is gone.

The killer we-told-you-so-but-itʼs-OK track here is “June Showers,” whose nursery school guitar riff mimics the nursery rhyme offerings of major labels who do it all, as Mac intones, “because they care for you.” But it is the sweetness of Macʼs chorus, confidently pleading, “Iʼm hoping for the coolest showers in June/a transfusion that might keep you from giving up/donʼt give up,” that gives the song and the album its soul. For what is punk rock but soul music turned upside down, irony and laughter filling in for “baby” and “Lord have mercy,” while the true desire—for a new world, a new day—seeps in through the static in the amps.