Superchunk

The urgency of current events after the demoralizing 2016 election gave Mac, Laura, Jim, and Jon of Superchunk the momentum to make something new sooner than later. “It would be strange to be in a band, at least our band, and make a record that completely ignored the surrounding circumstances that we live in and that our kids are going to grow up in.” Enter What a Time to Be Alive, Superchunk’s first album in over four years. It’s a record, says Mac, “about a pretty dire and depressing situation but hopefully not a record that is dire and depressing to listen to.”

Indeed, like so much of Superchunk’s music in the band’s nearly three decades together, the songs on What a Time to Be Alive meet rage and anxiety head-on with the catharsis and exhilaration of loud punk fire and vulnerable pop energy. Like 2013’s I Hate Music, which focused on death, loss, and the role of music in an aging life, What a Time to Be Alive brings spirit to the frontlines of pain—it’s as defiant as it is despairing, as much a call to arms as a throwing up of hands.

Written almost entirely between November 2016 and February 2017, What a Time to Be Alive was recorded and mixed by Beau Sorenson, who also worked on I Hate Music. The record also has more guest backing vocalists than any previous Superchunk album, including Sabrina Ellis (A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit), Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee), Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields), Skylar Gudasz, and David Bazan.

Spider Bags

Between 2006 and 2011, Chapel Hill’s Spider Bags toured the U.S. in a countless crisscross, sharing stages with Reigning Sound, King Khan BBQ Show, The Golden Boys, and Titus Andronicus to name just a few. After releasing two excellent full lengths for San Francisco’s Birdman records (A Celebration of Hunger, 2007 & Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World, 2009), the boys had hit a crossroads.

A heavy touring schedule saw members dropping like flies, with only mainstays/lifers Dan McGee (songwriter, guitar, vocals) and Gregg Levy (guitar, bass) left standing. But invigorated with a batch of brand new songs, they completed the current quartet lineup with mighty Rock Forbes on drums and Steve Oliva on bass.

The quartet packed up a few essentials into a mini-van and headed to their spiritual home of Memphis, TN. They set up shop in the home of engineer and musician Andrew McCalla. In a matter of only three days, the Spider Bags recording session became a non-stop party and impromptu “happening”. The band played an in-store at legendary Goner records, a frenetic live show to a capacity audience, and all the while managed to record Shake My Head, sleep be damned. This record is a document of a true rock-n-roll party, where members of Memphis bands and luminaries like Jack Oblivian and Harlan T. Bobo wandered in and out of the sessions to either lay down some guitar or backing vocals or just drink a beer and have a good time. And a good time was had, as you can actually hear on the record itself.

For Shake My Head, Spider Bags have let go- kicking off the proverbial shoes, just going in for the pure fun of it. The result is a phenomenal blend of Beefheartian weirdness, gang vocals, and enough guitars and riffs to make any Reigning Sound, Royal Trux, or Ty Segall fan plenty happy. The songs themselves pull together a schizoid melding of Stax-style-R&B (Simona La Ramona), Brill Building melodies (Friday Night), west coast psychedelia (Shape I Was In ) and ‘down on the street’ swagger (Quetzalcoatl Love Song). These are the new “nuggets” for the freaks and heads of our technologically muddled/fucked world. Rejoice, brothers and sisters - for rock an roll is alive and well!

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