I Hate Music, Defend Yourself

Superchunk and Sebadoh

Phases and Stages

Superchunk

I Hate Music (Merge)

Sebadoh

Defend Yourself (Joyful Noise)

Is this what The Big Chill sounds like for Gen X's college radio subset? Despite a title that reads like perfunctory cynicism, Superchunk's 10th studio LP delivers a perfect strike at the heart of mature-stage alienation. Against the backdrop of a virulent fuzz-pop riff, Mac McCaughan kicks off "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" by singing, "I hate music/What is it worth/Can't bring anyone back to this Earth." With Ray Davies precision, he sums up these melancholy times as assuredly as a besotted pub sage. Same with "Staying Home," a hardcore-infused broadside against going out, clocking in at just over a minute. From the befuddled realization that springing back from a bender isn't eternal ("Out of the Sun") to uneasy resignation of loss ("What Can We Do"), I Hate Music feels instantly familiar and compelling. Only the former's true of Sebadoh's Defend Yourself. Grounded in the fertile terrain of terminal relationships, the warm, unadorned album comes undone by undercooked songwriting. "Oxygen" is a spry pop driver recalling the Smiths, while shambling post-punk rave-up "Inquiries" also arrives moderately intriguing. Compared to Lou Barlow's previous work, however, little here rises above the level of afterthought.

(Superchunk) ***.5

(Sebadoh) **

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