Review: Superchunk, Purple-State Punks, Take It to Trump on Their Best Album in Years

Written in a post-election rush, the indie-heroes' 'What a Time to Be Alive' is full of vitriol and wisdom

Superchunk's 11th album is 'What a Time to Be Alive.' Credit: Lissa Gotwals

When Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, something snapped inside the members of Superchunk. As they watched "deplorables" take cabinet positions and alt-right Nazis align, the veteran indie-rockers had a visceral reaction. The band members, four liberal-minded musicians who have called purple-state North Carolina their home since they formed in 1989, wrote all of the record's songs in a frenzied rush between the election and February 2017 and they ultimately struck on a perfect half-hour of punky, poppy vitriol.

The title track smarts with sarcasm as frontman Mac McCaughan howls, "The scum, the shame, the fucking lies/Oh, what a time to be alive" over a deceptively optimistic chord progression. On "I Got Cut," he bellows, "All these old men won't die too soon/Flesh balloons, still waving their arms around," along with words of support for Chelsea Manning, between lead-guitar sighs. And on "All for You," McCaughan challenges a solipsistic, greedy adversary (wonder who they have in mind?) with the chorus, "Fight me/I don't like to get hit but fight me." It's raw, bitter and catchier than influenza (or affluenza, as the case may be).

Superchunk have grown up mightily since they became indie-rock heroes with their breakout 1992 single "Slack Motherfucker," and its insolent chorus, "I'm working but I'm not working for you," but while the times have changed, the songs remain the same – if not a little better. They continue the through line of singing about maturity and responsibility that they started on 2010's Majesty Shredding here – like on "Break the Glass," one of the group's strongest singles in ages, when McCaughan sings, "Everyone is acting normal, but no one's sleeping through the night." It’s an approach no one could have predicted in their salad days. He may be a disgraceful garbage-fire of a president but Trump has accomplished one good thing so far: He's inspired the best Superchunk album in recent memory.