The A.V. Club had a long list of potential songs for One Track Mind with Mac McCaughan of Superchunk. To be honest, we geeked out a little bit, pitching some hail-Mary deep cuts (“Sidewalk,” “Cadmium”), left-field late-period songs (“Burn Last Sunday,” “Watery Hands”), fan-favorites (“On The Mouth”), and others (“Animated Airplanes Over Germany”). One of our favorite Superchunk songs, “Detroit Has A Skyline,” was tackled by another band for A.V. Undercover last year, and we didn’t really want to repeat it here.
Some of those didn’t work in the solo-acoustic setting, and as Mac told us, a lot of them just didn’t have much of a story—especially the ones from the early days, when Superchunk was cranking out new songs at a blistering pace. (“Surely these songs are about something,” we said. “You sound like all my girlfriends,” Mac responded.)
“It’s like, ‘Let’s have a band. Oh, if you have songs, you kinda gotta have words, and, okay, I’ll write some words,’” Mac says. “You end up with songs where there are words—and they can be super-catchy songs with good choruses—but they’re not really about anything because you’re just kind of making songs. You’re not making them in order to express a certain thing.”
Only in the past decade or so has Mac been able to easily define what his songs are about; there’s a great passage in Our Noise: The Story Of Merge Records where he asks bassist Laura Ballance if she still has the boom box “My Noise” is about—her response: “Uh, what boom box? I didn’t know it was about my boom box!” “Digging For Something," from 2010’s Majesty Shredding actually does have a story, and one that provides an appropriately retrospective point of view for Superchunk's first album in a decade. As Mac explains in the video, the song captures a time in his and his bandmates’ lives when adult responsibilities didn’t have such a strong grip—but not in a Kid Rock, “All Summer Long” kind of way.
While the song looks back, its video looks forward: Now more than two decades into its life, Superchunk is one of indie rock’s eldest bands—could the number of original members dwindle down until it’s just Mac with a bunch of hired guns?
“That’s not an uncommon subject when we’re together, on tour, because you’ll see a schedule in a club about the bands that are playing, and you’ll think, ‘Who is even in that band anymore?’” Mac says. “You’ll find out there are no original members, or it’s just the keyboard player. But at the same time, I can’t fault anyone—I can’t fault the guitar player for Foghat for keeping Foghat going. Why wouldn’t he want to keep doing that, if that’s what he loves doing?”
Majesty Shredding sort of asks that question too, and it all begins with a song about parties at Jon Wurster’s house.