Jason Arthurs

Don't call it a reunion. OG indie-rock pillars Superchunk recently released their first new album in nine years, Majesty Shredding, and the early word on it was weirdly conflicted. In the same breath, critics praised Superchunk for still sounding like Superchunk (whew, right), but specifically the Superchunk of their mid-'90s heyday, while taking pains to point out that this was definitely not a '90s reunion in the vein of, say, Pavement's recent string of well-received shows.

This is all technically true: Superchunk's last album, Here's to Shutting Up, came out in 2001 (so, not "'90s"); they never broke up so much as quietly went on hiatus; and they return touring a new album, not just their established back catalog. Still, nine years is a long time. And the fact that Majesty Shredding does so often sound like Superchunk beamed in straight from 1995 makes it hard not to hear the album as a kind of nostalgic comfort food.

The video for lead single "Digging for Something" even pokes fun at the whole "reunion" anxiety aspect of things—in it, Superchunk main man Mac McCaughan is the sole remaining member of the band (drummer Jon Wurster has become a dental hygienist, bassist Laura Ballance sells pottery at a farmers market, guitarist Jim Wilbur is a Buddhist monk), and he's brought on a bunch of American Apparel–clad youngsters (Merge Records act the Love Language) to act as his backing band. (Consider it a companion piece to the Pavement video for "Painted Soldiers," in which Spiral Stairs fires the other members of the band and continues on, hiring Veruca Salt as his replacement band.)

There are some thrilling moments: The rousing aimlessness—always a special Superchunk trick—of "Digging for Something" (cf. the Pixies' "Digging for Fire"); the tumbling, off-time chorus of "My Gap Feels Weird"; the gentle and hoarse verses and punctuating guitar riff of "Fractures in Plaster." Throughout, the band's guitars still fuzz and squeal with feedback, the tempos still occasionally race, and McCaughan and band still navigate around a hook with ease. It's hardly my favorite Superchunk album, but then again, it took me until a couple years ago to fully come around to 1997's Indoor Living, so maybe Majesty Shredding will be my favorite 'Chunk album circa 2021.

Another specter of the 1990s has come around recently: The self-titled debut EP from Forgetters, the latest project of Jawbreaker frontman Blake Schwarzenbach. Like it or not, it doesn't exactly sound like Jawbreaker (or anything like Jets to Brazil, for that matter). "Vampire Lessons" pins the singer's famously scraped-up rasp to martial drumming and merely workmanlike punk-rock riffs. The lyrics are gothy even by "Jet Black" standards. "Too Small to Fail" is a fine midtempo mope, and "Not Funny" breaks out of its jerky rhythm for one great parched scream on the chorus. The sustained electric guitar chords of "The Night Accelerates" come closest to Jawbreaker here, while the gravelly background vocals and chugging rhythm almost recall early Against Me!. It's not too promising, but then, Unfun had only a couple glimmers of what Jawbreaker was really capable of. So we'll see. recommended