Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91) (1991) ***1/2
Pop-punk garage rock by the early '90s (if not earlier) had become such a stale and unimaginative genre that any band peddling such reactionary fare had damn well better come up with some compellingly hooky songs to compensate. Superchunk aren't the second coming of the Buzzcocks, despite how sincerely they'd love to reincarnate the corpse of Pete Shelley (yeah, I know he's still alive and well, but he might as well have died in 1981 for all the world cares). As they offer nothing remotely original or all that interesting aside from poundingly delivered punk rock, Superchunk live or die by the strength of their material, and about half of their originals fall into the generic-who-gives-a-shit territory ("Garlic", "The Breadman," "Cast Iron," "Seed Toss"). The same principle holds water when covering other people's material: of the four covers included on this compilation of A/B-sides, only the Flys' "Night Creatures," rises to the point of enjoyability, as the Shangri-La's "Train From Kansas City," may or may not be girl-group classic (I've never heard it) but in any case doesn't deserve to get brutalized by the way these garage punks clumsily maul it. And the two Sebadoh covers? Puh-lease, Lou Barlow is the most overrated and flat-out boring indie-rock darling songwriter of the '90s, and Sebadoh suck. "But wait, Brian, you just awarded this CD a high grade!" Yes, I did, because the other half of the songs are really good! (And the generic pop punkers I mentioned aren't really all that bad or anything, with the exception of "Garlic," because of the gross lyrics - they're just forgettably generic, but OK enough when the record's on). "Slack Motherfucker," roars as the greatest proletarian fuck-the-man punk anthem the '90s produced, an ode to lazily slacking off at work that anyone who's worked minimum wage can't help resist muttering the chorus to under his breath and out of earshot of the boss once the chorus has been heard. Likewise, the well-archeologized cover of the ultra-obscure punk oldie, "Night Creatures," shouts the kind of chorus that instantly becomes your anthem for a night prowling the town (and it's a million times better than the Flys' original, to boot). "There's nothing new," the 'Chunk bellow on another track, "But we think it's cool / And we're cooler than you!" Actually, you're not, you guys sound pretty indie-dorky, but their odes to radio and music and the power of positive punk are infectiously sincere and heartfelt, and a good thing, too, since such lyrical preoccupations seem to cover about half the songs ("Fishing," "Cool," "My Noise," "What Do I," all four of which are stompingly anthemicly poundingly great). It's half of a really good punk album. I might even convince myself to enjoy the Sebadoh covers. Or even listen to Sebadoh. Ulp! Um.....no.