Superchunk - Indoor Living 12
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North Carolina indie rock figureheads Superchunk were all grown up by 1997, and their sixth album, Indoor Living, found them at a particular impasse. The band had come a long way from its carefree early days of caffeinated and infectiously catchy college pop with roots in punk. Mac McCaughan's songwriting hadn't quite shaken the extreme bitterness of 1994's heart-rending Foolish, their album which chronicled a harrowing, protracted, and alcohol-soaked intra-band breakup betweenMcCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance in brutal detail. Likewise, Indoor Living came a few years before the band's experiments with horns, strings, and production treatments on the Jim O'Rourke-supervised Come Pick Me Up. At first blush, Indoor Living was another obligatory chapter in the band's output, not as inspired by heartbreak or youthful excitement as what had come before it, and seemingly less of a step in their evolution and mostly just another Superchunkrecord. However sleepy the album may come across at first, the subtle shifts that took place do as much to signify growth as the moves from headstrong noise rock to melancholic songcraft that came before. The introduction of new sounds toSuperchunk's unwavering guitar rock approach makes huge ripples of change in the songs, from the vibraphone breakdown on "Martinis on the Roof" to unexpected organ tones on tracks like "Burn Last Sunday" and "Song for Marion Brown." The closest thing to Superchunk's earlier hyper pep is the snotty throttle of "Nu Bruises." Even when the songs are fast, they lack the unhinged push of early efforts, looking far more inward than before. Similarly, the anthemic feel of prior crowd favorites like "Detroit Has a Skyline, Too" and "Precision Auto" is replaced by Mac's maturing narratives and quiet observations, musical and lyrical. This may take away from the immediacy of the album for some listeners, but viewed as part of what would become one of the more significant bodies of work in indie rock, Indoor Living finds Superchunk at a transitional point that doesn't rely on extreme contrasts in sound, but rather explores more sophisticated and less transparent ideas. Not always as glamorous, and lacking the "hits" that made other albums popular, the songs here are growers, slow burners, and ones to revisit with greater understanding and reward as the years go on.