“Growing up, I was into hardcore,” admits Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan, 50, warming up to the subject of the three-decade-old North Carolina indie stalwarts’ viciously political new album, What a Time to Be Alive. “And a lot of that music was political. But in terms of writing my own songs when I was 21 or 22, a lot of those songs were about personal things. We would play a concert to get Harvey Gantt elected rather than Jesse Helms, but I never felt I was politically knowledgeable enough to write a song about politics that wouldn’t have been shallow or obvious.”
The events of Nov. 8, 2016, changed that for McCaughan. Watching in disgust as the electoral college handed the nation over to a maniac, songs began pouring out. It only made sense for McCaughan to convene with guitarist Jim Wilbur, bassist Laura Ballance, and drummer Jon Wurster – plus special guests including Austin’s Sabrina Ellis (A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit) on single “Break the Glass” – to work out his frustrations in 32 minutes of explosive, melodic guitar rock:
“To see the rot in no disguise,” he hisses on the title track, “the scum, the shame, the fucking lies/ Oh, what a time to be alive.”
It’s Superchunk’s most stringent album since their third, 1993’s On the Mouth.
“Musically, it’s more stripped-down than a lot of our records we made between 1992 and now,” agrees McCaughan. “Subject matter-wise, it’s more influenced by current events. We’ve always had some songs that were, but never this explicitly for the whole record. Because compared to Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, this is a whole new level of fucked-uppedness.
“It definitely feels like a con job, and it feels like a whole lot of damage can be done before anyone else is held responsible.”
Sat., May 5, 8:30pm