Superchunk Album History – Part 3 [1997-2001]

Moving forward with Part 3 of This Superchunk Life, we find me in the second half of my University degree and Superchunk shifting creatively yet again.  If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Watery Hands [1997]

I was in university when Watery Hands came out. It was the summer and it was hot. The on-campus record store kept promising me its arrival but it was many weeks after release that I finally got my hands on it. In the mean time I kept harassing the various DJs of the university radio station to play something, anything new from Superchunk. Also no dice. Such anticipation for a 2-song record resulted in serious over-playing and imprinting of said songs onto my brain.

Indoor Living [1997]

This got me through the cold weather months of the year. I quickly copied the CD to tape so I could listen in my car driving to and from work; Unbelievable Things is a safer commuting song than Precision Auto. Unlike Here Where the Strings Come In, where every listen brought a different favourite song, I instantly latched onto Martinis on the Roof, which is still my number one favourite Superchunk song of all time ever. I was happy to see them play this in concert, though a little disappointed at the lack of xylophone on stage.

Come Pick Me Up [1999]

This was my first “order directly from Merge and get it in the mail” album so instead of stalking record stores I just had to stalk my mailbox. Upon arrival I plopped myself in my beanbag chair in the middle of my empty dining room (first house, couldn’t afford to furnish every room) closed my eyes and listened. It was such a great way to listen to an album, without anything else going on to distract or engage. These days I’m lucky if I can listen to a single song this way.

This was also the year that I discovered eBay and start filling out my collection with all the singles and EPs that I did not already have.  Ah, the joy of the hunt.

Here’s to Shutting Up [2001]

Use of the Internet for music distribution was really starting to take off at this time and it was very exciting to be able to preview elements of HTSU in advance.  I downloaded the demo versions of Phone Sex and Act Surprised and listened to them on Terre T’s Cherry Blossom Clinic on WFMU, all while at work.

You can really feel a shift in the approach to the music on this album.  The changes in tone and sound feel less natural than with all of the other albums, like Superchunk were perhaps working a little too hard to make it fresh.  I was not really surprised as the band backed off on touring and recording.  A smart decision, rather than continue to try to do things in a forced manner, which likely would have led to a real breakup.  More on that in the final installment.

Superchunk, the smartest band in America!!

Superchunk’s Thoughts

To me, it feels that you became more of an ‘albums-band’ since Indoor Living, with a lot of the key singles and EPs providing the strongest moments prior to that. Is that an assessment that you might understand or accept?

Mac: I think you’re right about that, though it wasn’t intentional. It did however coincide with us beginning to write songs as a group, as opposed to myself bringing in a completed song. We started that with Here’s Where The Strings Come In and by Indoor Living everything was written from scratch by all four of us in the practice space.

Full article can be found here.

Although Merge may be gaining ground, without the commercial bullying provided by a major label their singles and videos remain virtually ignored.

Jon: “I think playlists and those things just get more and more constricted every year. This guy who works for Merge, who tries to get our records played on the radio, called someone at a station in Florida. The guy answered the phone and said, ‘Hey, I love the song ‘Watery Hands,’ but it’ll never get played here.'” The Merge rep asked why the new single wasn’t going to be put in rotation and the station rep admitted to a playlist of only 12 songs. Jon isn’t surprised at all.

Full article can be found here.

[on Indoor Living] The nine songs in between range from precious (“Marquee”) to ardent (“Watery Hands”) to poetic (“Under Our Feet”).

“There’s always a good amount of angst in our songs,” allows Wurster, “and I think it’s still there on this record. But it does sound a little lighter, which I think is good. Who wants to hear somebody moaning for the length of eight albums?” He adds, “We wanted to throw some new things into the mix on this one. We were lucky to have enough time to experiment with vibes and keyboards, and Mac got to experiment with a lot of vocal harmonies that he never attempted before.”

Full article can be found here.


About OneGoodMinute
Blogging about the fun and interesting things in life. Nerd stuff - movies, music, comedy, podcasts Social Media - Documenting my way through social media, blogging and online promotion. Learn from my experiences, mistakes and successes.

One Response to Superchunk Album History – Part 3 [1997-2001]

  1. Pingback: Superchunk Album History – Part 4 [2002-2010] « One Good Minute

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