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Superchunk: Crowding Up Your Visual Field (DVD)



Album: Crowding Up Your Visual Field (DVD)
Label: Merge

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Fifteen years of steady songwriting, touring, and DIY rock living has surely provided Superchunk with enough video footage to pack a box set of DVDs, but the band instead squeezes a cargo van full of material onto one disc. Crowding Up Your Visual Field collects a dozen videos in chronological order, starting with the Alternative Nation staple "Throwing Things" (which could be swapped visually with half a dozen clips from its time period) before moving on to weirder moments. Three clips co-directed by Peyton Reed (who went on to helm Bring It On and Down With Love) brought Superchunk's videos out of blurry slo-mo land: "Package Thief" stars marionettes that the director created in place of the band, "The First Part" finds drummer Jon Wurster at a slumber party, and "Driveway To Driveway" casts the band in a Philadelphia Story-styled romantic comedy. Then there's "Hyper Enough," which stars Janeane Garofalo and David Cross as aspiring directors out to bluescreen the members of Superchunk into a video reminiscent of The Cars' MTV staple "You Might Think." Each clip is accompanied by at least one commentary track, the most entertaining of which are provided by Wurster, the least serious Superchunk member. Where the rest of the group chats about old hairstyles, Wurster goofs on everything from his own chafed nipples to Fugazi. "Ian MacKaye stopped by to see how a video was made," he says. "He had all these great ideas for [Fugazi] videos, stuff with them riding around on tanks." The commentary provides a nice juxtaposition to the DVD's tour diary, Quest For Sleep, an hourlong document of the band's 2001 world tour. Hitting the road just weeks after Sept. 11, Superchunk seems to battle exhaustion and emotion, not to mention uncertainty about travel and attendance in the face of world events. There are bright spots—Cross shows up, pretending to be the promoter of a college show—but mostly it's between-shows boredom offset by blistering live performances. Those are truncated, but to make up for it, Crowding Up Your Visual Field closes with 10 songs performed live in their entirety, starting with four from the band's first-ever show (check out the poofy hair on singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan) through the 2001 tour. Those performances serve as a reminder that Superchunk has survived this long for a reason: For 15 years, it's made bedrock-solid, passionate music that these visuals might entertainingly augment, but will never truly improve.