Three years into the nineties and nostalgia for the Eighties has already begun. Bands like Seaweed, Rocket From the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu are bringing back the D.I.Y. attitude and hearland punk-rock sound of Hüsker Dü and the early Replacements, recalling a time when SST was the cool indie label and corporate America had never heard of Sub Pop. Superchunk, the unofficial flagship of this quasi movement, has been predictably labled the next Nirvana - and not entirely without reason. Both bands share a penchant for hummable melodies mixed with blaring guitars, unintelligible lyrics, good drumming and wariness of major-label sellout. On the Mouth, Superchunk's first offering since grunge took over the charts and fashion magazines, is no Nevermind, though, and doesn't try to be. Instead, the album refines and tightens the sound Superchunk established on its previous releases long before anyone considered punk rock commercially viable.
While Mouth doesn't have the sonic velocity of Superchunk's last album, No Pocky for Kitty, it more than adequately captures the band's brittle adolescent thump. Even the few lyrics that can be heard over the noise betray an obsession with speed that complements the songs' brisk tempos - one song instructs, "Do not pass me just to slow down," while another says, "The question is how fast." Still, Superchunk's stylistic consistency sometimes works against the group; spread over a whole album, it can sound smey and anachronistic. As a result, Superchunk is perhaps best appreciated in, well, chunks.
The band hasn't lost the ability to produce the occasional gem. "Precision Auto" recalls the spiky brilliance of the Buzzcocks, with its roaring drums and dissonant guitar hook, while the speedy minor chords of "Package Thief" manage to be both driving and plaintive. Superchunk occasionally embellishes its songs with suprises, such as the Jam-like acoustic guitar into to "I Guess I Remembered It Wrong," addind depth to the sometimes one-dimensional wall of sound. And "Swallow That," a droning, bass-driven near ballad that slowly builds in intensity, departs completely from the trademark Superchunk formula.
On the Mouth might have added resonance if it had taken more departures like "Swallow That." Despite the overall quality of the album, Superchunk remains content to mine a style that provided an antidote to the mainstream in the Eighties but that has since become the "alternative" orthodoxy of the Ninties.