What a Time to Be Alive is the eleventh studio album released by indie rock band Superchunk. The album was released through the indie record label Merge Records, which was co-founded by Superchunk’s vocalist and guitarist Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance.
Released Feb 16, 2018, the album is Superchunk’s first studio album in 5 years after the release of their previous album I Hate Music in 2015.
Sticking to their authentic style in music, Superchunk present a new album that almost exclusively expresses the band’s political opinion except for Bad Choices and Dead Photographers . And while the music is mostly happy, thanks to the upbeat drumming offered by Jon Wurster and melodic guitar solos played in major keys, the lyrics disagree.
A true example is their lead song What a Time to Be Alive where the lyrics of the song talk about all the horrible thing of society that politicians exploit to ultimately reach their goals
“You brushed your teeth
And found your calling
At the bottom of a swamp
There was no air
But to be clear
Darkness was all you wanted..”
Mac McCaughan continues to explain how he feels towards his surroundings in Lost My Brain and complements the song with Break the Glass where he gives specific examples.
In Bad Choices, McCaughan talks about all the bad choices he has done in the past and all what he can do in the future while at the same time wondering, why would he do that.
In Dead Photographers, the lead singer expresses his dissatisfaction with photographers forcing him along with his band to spend hours and hours to capture the perfect moment.
Another politically influenced song, I Got Cut, talks about the right for people to have reproductive health care. And the disappointment of McCaughan towards president Trump who took away access to reproductive health care for women.“All people should have access to reproductive health care. All people should have control over their own bodies” McCaughan remarked on the song.
The same pattern continues with Reagan Youth, Cloud of Hate and All For You where McCaughan shares his thoughts on the current political situation.
Black Thread, the last song of the album, leaves the listener with a relatively optimistic message. The chorus comprises the sentence “Cut the Black Thread” in repeat, urging the listener to get rid of all the negativity surrounding him/her.
Musically, the band crafted their songs according to their own formula with their alternative indie sound drawing elements from pop and punk. The beat is consistent through each song with great fills which gives a powerful and energetic vibes. The bass helps keep the beat consistent while the rhythm guitar gives you a sense that the band is playing in an open space, in their hometown, expressing themselves to friends, family and local fans complemented by happy sounding vocals by Mac McCaughan or his collaborators on Break the Glass, Erasure, Cloud of Hate and Black Thread.
The album cover was designed by Superchunk’s McCaughan and Laura Ballance. I personally think they did a very good job here. The three main colors used are red, black and white. It makes you instantly know what you are up to.
Finally, the music is exudes a happy vibe in all songs. Lyrics are full of disagreement with the politics of the right wing party which can be considered a drawback because it limits the number of audience of the album. On the other hand, Superchunk don’t seem too concerned about reaching mainstream audience anyway, taking into account, previous decisions such as refusing to sign to a major record label even though the bidding war by the majors to sign Superchunk after the release of their debut album. Personally, I think the songs were sometimes boring mainly because of the lack of diversity of topics but honestly, it takes a lot of courage for someone to express his/her own opinion. My favorite ones are What A Time To Be Alive, Break The Glass and Dead Photographers. What do you think of the album?
Written by: Ahmed Elhamshary.