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  Come Pick Me Up  




Release Date:


Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan, Tracers, and Malimus  
  To paraphrase Jarvis Cocker's opening line to This Is Hardcore, this is the sound of a band jumping the shark. This is the album where Superchunk lost me.  
  I'll go ahead and state that I like to pretend this record doesn't exist. Except maybe a punch line to a joke.  
  I have created a fantasy world in which this album does not exist. I prefer my fantasy world to reality.  

In short, it is EvilSponge's least favorite Superchunk record.

You see, over the course of three records, the band morphed from a punkish pop act to a straight-up pop act, culminating in this record. As if to show their pop cred, this record is produced by Jim O'Rourke. Instead of recording them as a guitar act, he apparently tried to re-create Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This album has horns and strings and keyboards scattered about, almost as an afterthought.

The real problem, for me at least, is that McCaughan sings completely differently on this record than he does on anything else Superchunk have ever done. In fact, until Indoor Living, he never really sang! The vocals on the first five Superchunk records vary between shouting and crooning. On this record his voice is mixed as if he was a great singer, such as the afore-mentioned Jarvis Cocker.

McCaughan is NOT a great singer. His voice is reedy and very high-pitched, almost a natural falsetto. For what the band had been doing up until this point, it worked. Here though, he is not shouting or crooning, he is singing his lyrics in a very calm, measured manner. You can understand the lyrics for once, which is very nice, but the voice just isn't strong enough to carry the songs.

Add to that the fact that the guitars are muted, often layered under strings, horns, or keyboards, and this album comes across as a mess. I mean, what is the point of an album by a band based aroudn twin guitar interplay, when you cannot hear the guitars?

I actually forced myself to listen to it again for the purposes of this exercise. To be honest, i am kind of surprised i kept it during The Great CD Purge of 1997, when i moved into my condo. But i still had it, and gave it a spin.

There are some okay songs on here, but they are destroyed by the production. For example, i kind of enjoy the light pop of Honey Bee, before the whole song is overpowered by horns that seem out of place. 1000 Pounds is a pretty good mid-tempoed tune, but there are strings that do not belong in it.

  How many songs are actually on Come Pick Me Up?  
  It has an unlukcy thirteen tracks.  
  The only one I recall is the near-wretched Hello Hawk, with its airy vocals and loungey style.  

As i was re-listening to this for the first time in 10 years or so, it occurred to me that this record is some sort of unholy fusion of Superchunk and The Flaming Lips. The strange sounds that pop up in the songs would not seem out of place on a Flaming Lips record, and the languid pace of many of the songs would work as well. Then again, Wayne Coyne has a better voice for singing than McCaughan.

When this came out, i personally gave up on Superchunk. I filed this CD away and pretended it did not exist. And in my disappointment, i stepped away from Superchunk, occasionally spinning Foolish or Here's Where the Strings Come In, and then only rarely. I have listened to a lot more Superchunk this past few months than i have in decades, and all of the albums leading up to this one have something to recommend them. This one does not. Not a damned thing.

  I think you're onto something here, PostLibyan. I hadn't ever realized it before, but I had a similar response. I hated this album so much that it colored everything Superchunk had created previously. Sure, I did listen occasionally to Here's Where the Strings Come In and, if I was in a mood, I might pull out Foolish. But after Come Pick Me Up, I never really listened to Superchunk much. It was like the treacly vortex that is this record completely obliterated my enjoyment of the band. As a side note, in the mid/late 90s, I also used to listen to McCaughan's side project, Portastatic. I don't listen to them anymore either.  

So here is something else that freaks me out. This album gets good reviews on Amazon. On AllMusic it is rated higher than Here's Where the Strings Come In! What the hell? I do not understand people.

So, my advice to you is to avoid this record. At all costs. Go and listen to any of the records that came before it, but stay away. It's for your own good.

Related Links:

Also on EvilSponge:
   Introduction to Superchunk
   Album: Superchunk
   Album: No Pocky For Kitty
   Compilation: Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)
   Album: On the Mouth
   Compilation: Incidental Music 1991-95
   Album: Here's Where the Strings Come In
   EP: Laughter Guns
   Album: Indoor Living
   Album: Come Pick Me Up
   Album: Here's To Shutting Up
   Concert: Thu.8.Sep.11


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