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Cup of Sand (Merge)

Superchunk is something of an American counterpart to Britain's Buzzcocks: Mac McCaughan's adolescently high, just-this-side-of-whiny vocals mix well with the buzz-saw guitars, steady-as-a-redwood bass playing, and propulsive drum-bashing. This two-CD collection of mostly singles and compilation tracks from 1995-2001 finds the main aspects of Superchunk's sound still firmly in place.

But don't get the notion that Superchunk's stuck in a punk-rock cul-de-sac; while the band carries the banner of hook-laden punk proudly, it's not limited by it. "The Length of Las Ramblas" is a pretty, psychedelically tinged ballad with forlorn vocal harmonies. The winsome mini-epic "1000 Pounds" recalls late-'60s Beach Boys, weaving a charming, wide-open amalgam of reflective folky melody, shimmering vibraphone, and an idyllic country-banjo motif.

But the bulk of this set is vintage Superchunk: Surging power-chord-driven tunes, such as "The Hot Break" and "Dance Lesson," are in the vein of their classic single, "The Question Is How Fast." Superchunk has pulled off one of the neatest tricks in contemporary rock: It's retained the old-school punk-rock verities (economy, wit, urgent angst, infectious melodies) while managing to age gracefully.

More by Mark Keresman


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