Superchunk - What a Time to Be Alive Album Review

Story posted February 23, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Jack Grossman

No other band has perfectly captured the vibe of four friends recording in a garage better than Superchunk, and they have done so yet again for their eleventh album, What a Time to Be Alive. On this record, listener’s are given a large selection of short songs that pack a punch and brings the listener back to the 1990s era of indie rock music. While it may not be concerned with advancing the genre of indie rock or experimenting outside of the band’s comfort zone, What a Time to Be Alive is nevertheless a perfect synthesis of what a Superchunk album should be in the Trump presidency.

What a Time to Be Alive has a runtime of about 30 minutes, and it is chock full of guitar shredding, fast punk drum beats, and vibrant vocals from frontman Mac McCaughan that bring both a shrill and fun element to their songs. The title track is a perfect example of how Superchunk’s hastily thrown together aesthetic, all while being able to be a cohesive belter in its own right. “Break the Glass” and “All for You” are further examples of how Superchunk have perfected the lo-fi inspired style, with limited production flair added. It is one of the best albums to come out of garage rock style of indie rock in some time, and one of the few released today that successfully recaptures the 1990s style of old.

While it does have short tracks, they are all very cohesive and don’t overwhelm the listener with too much at once. They make their statement and get out, not banking on the listener to pay attention if the song’s energy doesn’t warrant it. Tracks such as “Bad Choices” and “I Got Cut” are perfect examples of this. The fast-paced and lively instrumentation is able to hold up these two tracks to the DIY punk standard of 1990s indie rock, with the album as a whole serving as a testament to both the past with their songwriting and to the present with their lyrical prowess.
Because as amazing as the instrumental aspects of the album are, McCaughan’s lyrics shine through in a way they haven't in almost twenty years. Songs like “Bad Choices” and “Reagan Youth” make you forget most members of the band are (or are pushing) 50 years of age. Their anger and political frustration perfectly capture the rage of the youth of the 2010s. It’s a testament that your lyrics don’t need to be specific or overt to empower your listenership, and should serve as a case study for up and coming indie rockers.

That being said, it doesn’t strike a lot of chords when listening to it, and it can easily lose the attention of listeners who find it to be too one note. The tracks themselves, while purposefully short, can still feel too short as well. The album isn’t concerned with properly showing exactly what Superchunk is capable of when producing music.
However, Superchunk is a band of an iconic era, and on What a Time to Be Alive it reignites that iconic sound to surpass some of their modern-day peers. By bringing back the past it is able to give the listener a sense of how fun political and angry jamming-out was, even if it fails to make any strides beyond that. Overall it’s a colorful and bombastic album that does its job extraordinarily well, and shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 8/10

Jack Grossman is a sophomore majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email jackdgrossman@gmail.com.