It has been an amazing week for indie American label Merge Records, one of many surviving stalwarts from the alt-rock heyday of the early 1990s.
The North Carolina label put out two vital releases final Friday: What A Time To Be Alive, the 11th album by American alt-rock elders Superchunk, and Room Inside The World by Canadian post-punk upstarts Ought.
Superchunk is Merge’s flagship band – bass participant Laura Ballance and singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan based the label in 1989 to release the band’s music and finally ended up signing indie rock luminaries corresponding to Arcade Fire, The Magnetic Fields and She & Him.
Close to 3 many years after the quartet fashioned, What A Time To Be Alive breaks new floor by being the band’s first politically charged album.
With songs written rapidly after the divisive United States presidential election in late 2016, the result is a batch of tunes that channels anxiousness and fury by melodic guitar-rock anthems.
Superchunk have all the time mastered the artwork of merging punk rock vigour with instantly arresting hooks, however this time, the tunes are honed with razor-sharp missives.
McCaughan’s enthusiastic vocals have by no means sounded extra pressing as he rails in opposition to what he perceives as political failings.
ALTERNATIVE ROCK/INDIE ROCK
WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE
ROOM INSIDE THE WORLD
“To see the rot in no disguise/Oh what a time to be alive,” he sings on the title monitor and album opener, as guitarist Jim Wilbur augments the track with refined solos.
“Break the glass/Don’t use the door/This is what/The hammer’s for,” he exhorts within the call-to-arms vitality of Break The Glass.
McCaughan’s rage is most outstanding in All For You, by which he presents to put down his non-violent stance in a bid to confront his politically poisonous opponents (“I don’t like to get hit but fight me”).
Less politically charged, however no much less compelling, are the brand new tunes by Ought.
The band stay musically difficult – rhythms morph and take uncommon left-turns, whereas singer-guitarist Tim Darcy’s impassioned baritone narrates his issues about surviving in an unsure world.
In Disgraced In America, he seemingly takes a stab at wall-building and insular political strikes (“Demarcation/See those lines interrupt”) as drummer Tim Keen dazzles with deft, wildly shifting beats.
Darcy is at his snarkiest greatest within the lyrically despondent Disaffectation (“Well here’s some liberation, you can order it online”), whereas the motorik, four/four beat in These three Things carries a bleak, heartbreak tune (“A precious secret/Like a bird inside a vest/Wings won’t mend, so I hold them again/It doesn’t speak, it just sings ’til it burns”).
Yet, the despair is all the time tempered by lush preparations and instrumentation, such because the surprising look of a 70-piece choir within the uplifting Desire.
With Room Inside The World, the quartet increase past their post-punk, art-rock roots to ship an album each wistful and musically gratifying.