Album Of The Week: Superchunk – Wild Loneliness

The North Carolina indie pioneers return in mellow but no less impressive form

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For their first decade, Superchunk were all about short, razor sharp blasts of noise and melody – punk energy and pop sensibilities blended into something that is decidedly not pop punk.

By the time the millennium turned, however, the quartet had started to explore different textures: strings, acoustic guitars, slower tempos. Here’s To Shutting Up, in particular, might have alienated those who still yearned for the scruffy emotion and aggression of the early days, but it threw open the windows for a band who clearly felt stifled by the room they’d sat in for over a decade.

Wild Loneliness finds the band very much back in that lighter mode after the all-out assault of 2018’s What A Time To Be Alive. ‘City Of The Dead’ opens the record with acoustic strums, strings and a crash cymbal that sounds like a waterfall. Distorted guitars creep around the edges, but never where you expect them, adding depth and a bit of grit to one of the band’s prettiest songs.

Superchunk - Endless Summer (Official Lyric Video)

From there, the autumnal pop of ‘Endless Summer’ launches the record into the melodic stratosphere, bearing many of the hallmarks of its guest stars Raymond McGinley and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub. ‘On The Floor’ is all open roads and clear skies with one of the record’s most triumphant choruses, while Jon Wurster gets to show off his drumming chops on the terrific intro to ‘Highly Suspect’.

The Fannies aren’t the only high-profile guests on Wild Loneliness, with R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Sharon Van Etten, and Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura all featuring. Owen Pallett’s strings on ‘This Night’ give a driving rock song a sense of majestic abandon, while Wye Oak’s Andy Stack chips in with a sax part on ‘Wild Loneliness’ that spirits the song off in a totally unexpected direction.

Superchunk - This Night (Lyric Video)

There’s a sense throughout that Superchunk are looking for something new and different. Where most bands would reach for the fuzz pedal for some elevation, instead they push an acoustic guitar, horns, some vocal harmonies or strings to the fore. The result is that when they do go direct on ‘Refracting’, it sounds even heavier than it really is.

Superchunk have always created albums that seemed both rooted in their time and with a life way beyond it. Wild Loneliness is no different, except that it might just be the band’s best since their 2010 return.

Buy Wild Loneliness from Bandcamp, and read other Discover reviews here.