In 1999 Superchunk released their prettiest album to date thanks to Jim O'Rourke's delicate touch. Now Merge Records releases the album with a handful of gorgeous demos.
Several years ago Superchunk released a video for “Digging for Something,” the opener for the first studio album they had released in almost 10 years. The video depicts the band as a couple of washed up musicians, basking in the forced glow of their mid-'90s glory. Although humorous, the actuality of the band couldn’t be farther from that.
Both of the band’s post-hiatus records, 2010's Majesty Shredding and its superb 2013 follow-up I Hate Music, sound just as playfully rowdy and effortlessly fun as anything plucked from their early career. So, long story short, that goofy foursome from Chapel Hill, NC, are still very much the same music geeks who, with the help of Jim O’ Rourke, added that lamenting horn section to “Hello Hawk,” the second track from their landmark 1999 album Come Pick Me Up.
July 10 Merge Records will re-issue Come Pick Me Up, so fans can once again soak up that delectable smudgy garage rock painted pretty with oddball strings and off-and-on horn sections. The reissued record will come with a selection of bonus tracks, most notably a number of gorgeous acoustic demos of the songs that made the final cut onto the album. Especially note the heart-spinning “whoo whoos” on the early rendition of “Cursed Mirrors,” and the laid back, summertime feel of the demo of “Cursed Mirror.”
There’s something immediately intimate about those demos, and after you listen to them it’s hard to not listen to the polished up album versions without hearing those moments of hidden sonic radiance slipped in and around the scrubbed up final cuts. Perhaps a band really has selected the right demos to accompany a re-release if they allow the listener to hear something altogether new and absolutely wonderful in those original tracks that they already know like the back of their hand.
Come Pick Me Up sounds like adolescence, much like any good rock record, and especially like any worthwhile record from the late ‘90s. The songs might have been penned by folks who were slowly learning how to lead their lives, in their late 20s and early 30s; but they reek of the painful and pretty confusion that can only accompany years 12 through 19 of your life.
“Low Branches", “June Showers", and “Smarter Hearts” might, upon first listen, just sound like another Superchunk song, but as any Superchunk fan knows, those songs don’t really all sound the same regardless of any publishing company’s name, past or present. After about three listens, those adorable pop hooks start to hang out like none other, and at that point you might as well resign yourself to the very likely fact that you will be listening to Superchunk and only Superchunk for the next handful of weeks.
In fact, those mid-album gems are a huge reason why Come Pick Me Up is one of those albums that is worth a decent reissue. Because maybe you really wish that you go out and buy, for the first time all over again, an album with that much “inner depth", or that is that much fun to listen to, over and over again.
“Tiny Bombs”, “Hello Hawk”, and “So Convinced” might be the finest songs on the album, although every song becomes an addictive listen after a while. Those tracks immediately stand out as “Boy, I want to hear that one again” sort of tracks. The band sounds mellow, with their natural punk rock sloppiness dialed down just enough to let those pop band sensibilities shine through.
Perhaps you can’t go back to the late summer of 1999. But you can go back to the soundtrack that illuminated the backseats of so many cars back then, the sounds that flowed in and out of speakers, all before any of this sort of experience was widely digitized.