Superchunk; Smudge, Planet, November 20, 1996

Sue, could you check Smudge’s bass player’s name? I think it’s Adam Yeo but I’m not too certain. Ta.

There exists, in your community, a widely unacknowledged subculture which is as delicate as a vegan, as opinionated as an anarchist and as stoic as a gothic purist. They are fanzine writers, and as the rustle of fake fur on notepad eminated about the relatively-full room you surely felt the religious gravity of the following situation – in indie label group hug.

Sydney’s Smudge, the linchpin of the Half A Cow record label and comic shop for years now, kicked in way too heavy for anyone’s liking. Renown for their laid back and perfectly-short pop jingles lapped-up by fellow songwriters, ‘SuperSmudge’ seemed to want to harness the power of their touring buddies and basically extinguished any form of their melody with overblown grunt.

Setting off on the right foot with Ingrown from 1993’s Manilow, the sheer physical presence of Alison couldn’t even save SuperSmudge with Tom Morgan’s vocal way down in the mix, his inability to pronounce consonants and Adam Yeo’s abysmal bass efforts – try tuning it Adam.

Even with The Outdoor Type making a delightfully notable appearance – Morgan’s track appearing on the new Lemonheads album – the damage was done and the snapping of pencils overwhelmed the polite applause.

Enter Superchunk: the folk who brought us the independent Merge Records from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; driving tangential riff fests that the greats fawn over and lots of obscure collectables to fuss about. Earmarked immediately as a true fans’ set with lots of obscurities, their dual guitar lines which go in different directions while still sounding harmonious was a sweet change from the previous dirge, everything being distinct and sharp at car drivin’ velocity.

Here’s Where The Strings Come In’s single Hyper Enough made the grade on this night to much crowd bouncing, as did variations of Iron On and Flawless, Precision Auto and Package Thief (from ’93s On The Mouth) and the wonderfully segued First Part (from ’94s Foolish) – with songs sometimes appearing only fleetingly as a familiar riff amongst equally-upstanding early material.

With the faultless, bass playing Laura Ballance leaping high and the wee Mac McCaughan singing in his near frantic whine, Superchunk were furthermore a visual and hyperactivating feast. The show-closing encore of Fishing had McCaughan and drummer Jon Wurster swap places without missing beat to engage in a little of AC/DC’s TNT, a bit of Superchunk tradition creeping in for the scribes’ benefit (another live variation of this appears as a B-side of ’91s Mower single). Just super … and support your local ‘zines, kids.

Adam Connors