Pop Music Reviews : Superchunk Flexes Punk-Power Muscle

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North Carolina’s Superchunk is the gleaming front piece on the hood of Chapel Hill’s thriving underground rock scene. The quartet, which plays raw power pop with a cuddly yet jagged edge, started its own label in the late ‘80s, and has since turned down offers from several major labels.

It’s a move that has upped its status to indie rock god. The group has put out close to 25 Superchunk releases on its label Merge (as well as a slew of other local bands from the college town), and attracted a substantial audience nationwide.

Friday at the Palace, the T-shirt-clad band came out jumping and moving to its high-energy tunes, which sounded somewhere between the sweetness of the Monkees and the sneering snottiness of the Sex Pistols. Nothing mindbending, but it beats most bands in the power-punk department.


Singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan shouted the highs, then croaked the lows as if he were at home in the shower. Bassist Laura Ballence interjected gruff backup vocals and, in between, bounced up and down like a Superball. The audience, which had plenty of space to move around, pogoed in packs rather than slamming in a circle.

Superchunk played tight numbers with catchy hooks hidden under the grumbling distortion. Toward the end of the hour-plus set, the band’s energy began to drain, especially during slower numbers, but came back in one big blast for the encore.