Review Summary: how's everything at the front of house
The music video for “Me & You and Jackie Mittoo” features photos of a bunch of music nerds holding up their favourite records, each small moment of glory scattered about the video’s frame for seconds before dissolving into the Youtube rewind afterlife. Some dude likes Rush; another Yo La Tengo; I think The Shape of Punk To Come
makes an appearance fitting of what it is, held up by a sweet, well-dressed guy with a great toothy grin, because Refused are that punk band, right? The photos are a cruel sleight of hand; look past them and the background moves through the snowy streets of a city at night, focusing on the death rather than the life. The leafless trees are in the foreground; the cars flit by like the music fans and their records do. Because fuck it, what is it worth? They call albums song cycles because they come back around, but also because they are worthless and inevitable.
The song asks a rhetorical question – “I Hate Music. What is it worth?”, a point well taken – but then answers it with the kind of unsatisfying chagrin it’s owed: “I got nothing else, so here we go”. It’s actually the second song on I Hate Music
but it feels like the first. The minutes prior to that “go” (yawned, not exclaimed) act as a prologue, dancing around death before the confrontation. The actual confrontation, the “here we go”, is anti-climatic as hell, though: you can’t blame music for grief, but you can’t use it to move on.
There are some other songs and they are about music, too, caught between dealing sarcastic shots at it and affectionately clinging to its technicalities: hitting the right notes, making sure the sound system gets set up alright, working out which song is special to which friend. As Superchunk concede on “Jackie Mittoo”, music is inadequate because there’s always space between notes, but I Hate Music
makes me feel like life is alright really because there are notes filling up the space. This shit is meta, but warmly, I think, hating on something you’d let crash on your couch because you care about it. “FOH”, the anthem of 2013 nobody was singing, is probably the best song written about musical brotherhood since The Wrens’ “This Boy Is Exhausted”. It’s about being wrecked and too tired to carry on, and also about your standard indie rock existentialism: why am I feeling down? Like Kev jumping in to jam with Charles Bissell and play the one show to answer all their questions, Superchunk find solace in finding replacement wires and perfecting sound check.
I Hate Music
owes a lot to Superchunk’s discography but to me it sounds like Reconstruction Site
melting into The Meadowlands
, a wintery record that can’t relate to young indie rock, nor understand where the future’s headed. It’s about friends dying and realising music isn’t the right alchemy for immortality. My favourite moment on the record is the foreboding opening riff of “Your Theme”, which is checked by a few slimy chords that seem to book Superchunk into hell. The song quickly climbs out and becomes Superchunk lite, a more jovial and one-to-one song filled with bap bap ba da da das and elastic string bends. Fitting, really – a record called I Hate Music
isn’t actually going to be about destroying music. It’s not going to be a sludge metal record about the gruesomeness of death. Instead, consider it a collection of the best tricks, a celebration of the strange, soothing thing called music we choose to believe in alongside all the bad news we’re delivered. You can’t call music a distraction, because all the pictures of people and their favourite records in the world couldn’t cover up the fact that life goes on. Music is just a slow-working painkiller.