Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Naked pilseners

I was a big Superchunk fan in the mid-90s. So naturally, in addition to supporting the Chunk I was buying everything released on Merge. And I was pretty excited when Mac McCaughan released his first solo album as Portastatic, I Hope Your Heart Is Not Brittle. I picked up several subsequent Portastatic albums too, but none of them seemed to stick. Mostly, I had a hard time getting past the fact that Mac doesn't have the voice to do the singer/songwriter thing. It's thin and has very limited range--which is fine when you're yelling about package thieves and tying ropes to the back of the bus over the squall of loud electric guitars. It doesn't work so well when it's just you, your 4-track and some introspective thoughts.

Which isn't to say McCaughan hasn't produced some worthy recordings as Portastatic. A song off the first record, "Naked Pilseners" probably lands in my top 100 of all time or just a little outside. So while I resold Brittle a while back, I've hung on to the CD single, which has two other cool tracks, an experimental kind of thing, "Feel Better" and a cover of Magnetic Fields' "Josephine."

I can't really explain why I love Pilseners so much. I mean, it's just a simple, repetitive song that at over five minutes, is way too long. But it's so pretty and boasts such plain, unaffected harmonizing vocals--courtesy of Jennifer Walker (Erectus Monotone)--it never wears out its welcome. When McCaughan and Walker sing, "the sign at the fork in the road says straight on," I can't help but smile.

Naked Pilseners (mp3) - Portastatic

Josephine (mp3) - Portastatic

Josephine (mp3) - Magnetic Fields


My five favorite Superchunk songs (mind, this is off the top of my head and could change if I gave it some actual thought):

1. "Precision Auto"
2. "Sick To Move"
3. 'Slack Motherfucker"
4. "Cool"
5. "Why Do You Have To Put A Date On Everything"

Precision Auto (mp3) - Superchunk

Buy: On The Mouth, Superchunk, Tossing Seeds, Foolish


Anonymous david said...

you're right about him not having the voice... i wish i did. josephine is one of my favorite magnetic fields songs, and this cover is a nice idea, but falls a little short.

6:45 PM  

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