Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-04-22

2011-04-22

No Age: Everything in Between (Sub Pop, 2010) Having disbanded their punk trio to prove they weren't simply or even primarily punks, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall apply their bag of arty tricks to a punk album with a punk narrative. "I try to make myself seem vague/Cause the words get so engraved"--OK, understood, only not entirely, which is how they want it. Hence 10 of these songs are directed at a "you" that could be a boss, a colleague, an audience, a roommate, or, obviously, a girlfriend, but who is only clearly a female once. There are also three instrumentals, which contextualize the songful riffage of most of the other tracks with the atmospheres in which they've specialized. But the decisive atmosphere is provided by the riffage--hooks and power chords as anthemic as any in punk, only shot through with their atmospheric chops and innovations. In other words, it's a punk album with a difference, which at this late date is the only kind you can count on for a thrill. And what it says beyond its seeming vagueness is: "we" care about "you." A

Superchunk: Majesty Shredding (Merge, 2010) Don't believe old fans with their collective pre-midlife crisis. Believe a codger who has ever thought them an honorable band whose sole great record was damn near their first, the satirically candid "Slack Motherfucker." Here, 20 years after he started trying if trying is what that was, Mac McCaughan finally assembles an album that captures what could be glimpsed in that single and the only live show I ever saw them give (Lollapalooza '95). Eschewing both the lo-fi murk that obscured vocal yowl and guitar roar alike on the early albums and the fruity pop voice he affected as the centuries did their thing, McCaughan and cohort deliver a bunch of loud guitar songs--not anthems, songs--whose unkempt tailoring and melodic uplift are worthy of betters from Nirvana to the Arcade Fire. Providing myth to die for and money to burn respectively, those two bands made this claim on history possible. The hoarse, throaty voice knows its consonants, and the lyrics are full of the everyday breakdowns most of us survive into midlife and beyond--"about nothing and everything," which is what they always wanted even if they were too cool to make it plain. A-

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