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Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)





Release Date:


Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan and Tracers  

Superchunk's third long-form release was this compilation of tracks from six singles they released from their inception up through the time of No Pocky For Kitty. This is the first of three compilation records Superchunk has put out to date, and the last one was even a double-disc set, so the band is nothing if not prolific.

As a compilation of singles, the sound quality here varies due to different recordings in different studios. This is also a portrait of a band in transition, the first six tracks featuring original guitarist Jack McCook, and the last seven featuring his replacement, Jim Wilbur. The songs are organized here in the same order as on their original release, allowing the listener to absorb how the band grew with their various releases.

The first three tracks are from their debut 7", back when the band was just known as Chunk. Up first is What Do I, which reminds me of any number of late 1980s punk tunes. The recording level is poor, the treble is extremely high, and it has massive amounts of energy. The band just tears through this, a ball of fury... i bet a young Mac even had spittle flying as he screamed these words at early concerts.

They follow this with My Noise, the intentionally anthemic tune that we already covered on the debut LP. However, the third song is one of my favorites, (Super)Chunk covering the old Shangri-La's tune Train From Kansas City. I love old girl-group pop, and this is a great version. Ballance plays a deep bass riff that mimics the sound of a train, and McCaughan warbles his way through the vocals, as the guitars crunch. The whole thing soars along at a breakneck pace, and one doubts that the Shangri-La's ever kicked so much ass.

  We've discussed this amongst ourselves here at Sponge HQ and the consensus is that Superchunk knows how to own a cover. Train From Kansas City is a case in point. The original Shangri-Las recording has a quintessential 60s girl group sound (not surprising considering that The Shangri-Las are a 60s girl group). This recording takes the same elements and makes it completely Superchunk-y.  

Superchunk's second 7", which finally added the "super" to their name, kicks off with Slack Motherfucker, which was also on the debut. The B-side here is another cover, Night Creatures, originally by some act called The Flys. I have never heard of them, and this song doesn't make me want me to hear more. It is a kind of power punk tune, but without any of the catchiness, just a lot of yelling and crunchy cords. At four minutes, this song is twice as long as it needs to be.

Up next is Superchunk's contribution to a split 7" called Three's Company, leading me to believe there were two other bands involved. Superchunk's contribution is called Garlic. Garlic is, or course, my favorite flavor (i am a very vampire free person, thank you), but this song is not their best work. McCaughan warbles his lyrics as the guitars grind at a mid tempo. Not bad, but not that remarkable either.

The first official release with Jim Wilbur is the stunning 7" of Fishing b/w Cool, from early 1991. The A-side, Fishing is one of those tunes that they band still do in concert. Live, Jon Wurster hands the drumming over to McCaughan, and Wurster comes up and sings as the song transforms into a gloriously messy cover of Black Flag's My War, with Wurster screaming and pogo-ing, while McCaughan beats the tar out of Wurster's drum kit. It's a lot of fun. This recorded version is a pretty decent hard punk tune, but when i listen to it, i half expect them to erupt into Black Flag, and when that doesn't happen, i am disappointed. Still, it's pretty good.

  In some ways, I find Fishing to be at least as anthemic as Slack Motherfucker. But, like PostLibyan mentions, some of this quality is due to the live mash-up with My War that the band has perfected over the years.  

The B-side is one of my favorite of their songs. Cool is one of McCaughans first pure pop songs, catchy and fun. And of course, lyrically it is self-referential, about the fact that all music, all art, is just recycling what has come before. As the chorus says:
"I heard this song on the radio once
I stole a bar
I stole a drink
I used the last straw for my ink
Sometimes I fear I neglect to think"

See what he did there? Clever McCaughan equating a musical unit with the place your get booze. Fun with homonyms, starring Superchunk. I love it. This was a damned fine 7", and a fine introduction to Mr. Wilbur.

  He is cheeky, isn't he? For a similar sort of wordplay, listen to The Shallow End off Incidental Music.  

Gearing up for their second full-length, Superchunk released two singles of songs that were on No Pocky For Kitty.

Up first is a song that the AllMusicGuide calls "an underground classic". Huh. The song is called Breadman, and it is not really that different from My Noise. It has the sort of structure, tempo, and level of punkishness. However, one of the guitars is a clattering acoustic, which is pretty cool. I think it improves just slightly on the My Noise template.

The B-side is Cast Iron, but in a different version than on No Pocky For Kitty. Here McCaughan's voice is distorted, and the guitars are rawer. I guess this is kind of a demo version.

The final release compiled here starts with Seed Toss, here in the same version as on No Pocky For Kitty. The contrast between this Albini produced tune, and the previous, rawer track is pretty amazing.

There are two B-sides, both covers of tunes by Sebadoh. Huh. So Superchunk were big Sebadoh fans. Who knew? The first one is It's So Hard to Fall in Love, where McCaughan's voice is mixed low under the instruments. This makes him sound much lower than he normally does. Not as low as Lou Barlow, but still. At any rate, this is a catchy Sebadoh love tune, more about sadness than anything else. Of the two Sebadoh covers, i like this one slightly more.

The second is Brand New Love, which it the type of catchy, guitar-heavy tune that Superchunk did so well for most of their career. Which raises the interesting question as to how much they are influenced by Mr. Barlow. Is he their muse?

What a scary thought!

  Of the two Sebadoh covers, I actually prefer Brand New Love. In fact, for years, i actually thought this was a Superchunk original, just because it is the guitar-heavy pop that Superchunk does so well. Add that to the tone of positive regret present in the lyrics and it's hard to associate this with Sebadoh. But as PostLibyan says, Superchunk knows how to perform a cover.  
  Overall, i really like this compilation. There is lots to like here, and it also paints an interesting historical portrait of the band. Of their early releases, this one is my favorite. I would put this on before either the debut or No Pocky For Kitty.  
  Totally agree. In my own head, I think of this as Sueprchunk's debut record, if only because it's so much more solid and fun than Superchunk.  
Related Links:

Also on EvilSponge:
   Introduction to Superchunk
   Album: Superchunk
   Album: No Pocky For Kitty
   Album: On the Mouth
   Album: Foolish
   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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