Superchunk, On The Mouth (1993)

When I graduated college in '88, I went through a musical dry spell; after discovering R.E.M. and The Replacements and Sonic Youth and so many others, I was worried that, with the glory days of college radio behind me, musical discoveries would be few and far between.  So hearing Superchunk's blazing, incomparable "Slack Motherfucker" around 1990 was truly electrifying, definitive reassurance that, nope, not to worry, all is fine.

However, I saw them more as a singles act; the first couple albums, for all their updated post-punk energy, didn't really do it for me, and I wondered whether the band had staying power.  (Not that they owed the world anything after "Slack Motherfucker"; they could've called it quits then and still been legendary.)  1993's On The Mouth was the first one where I thought, hey, this band's actually got some nuance, they can stretch out, they may be in it for the long haul.  Which turned out to be the case.  Each successive album grew a little more mature, a little more sure-footed; 1995's Here's Where The Strings Come In may be be the one I listen to most, though I've found songs to love on every album right up through last year's politically charged What A Time To Be Alive.  (2010's Majesty Shredding is another fave, the band returning from some earned time-off with a slew of fantastic tracks.)

Still, I'll always have fondness for On The Mouth, as that's the one that first won me over.  Sure, they unfairly front-load it with winner; opening track "Precision Auto" is perhaps their most rollicking tune ever, a few minutes of pure catharsis, the one I play when I need a little boost for the morning commute or just need to wake myself the hell up.  It definitely makes the shortlist of songs that demand being played at ungodly volumes that shake the walls.  But the next few are pretty damn great as well.  "From The Curve" takes it down just a notch, but adds an absolutely killer hook; "For Tension" follows in the same vein.  And then you get "Mower," another slow-ish one with a relentless hook, a personal favorite.

Beyond that the album jumps around a bit; a few more thrilling, tuneful rockers like "Package Thief" and "The Question Is How Fast," a few that hew a little too closely to the barrel-forward formula of the prior albums.

While I welcomed the maturity and sonic variety the band introduced over successive albums, On The Mouth remains a great introduction to Superchunk, a joyous proclamation that there's still a lot to be done within the broader punk rock parameters.

Here's the "Precision Auto" video:
...and "Mower":