Illustration by Henry Sharp from Vern Fearing's "The Sloths of Kruvny", originally printed in Amazing Stories magazine, October 1953
I think I've mentioned that I've had a renewed interest in the back catalog and history of Merge Records, largely as a result of reading Our Noise: the Story of Merge Records. For one thing, I've started listening to Superchunk again, for the first time in several years. My first Superchunk experience was hearing 1993's On the Mouth, and I have all the albums they put out after that. But I need to acquaint myself with the earlier stuff, and a good place to start is with Incidental Music, a collection of singles and non-album tracks from that era.
The collection, as admitted by Mac McCaughan in the liner notes, is bloated and uneven. Some of the tracks don't have much value - "Makeout Bench" is actually from 1990 and would have shown up on the band's first singles collection Tossing Seeds if it was any good. "Connecticut" has a lead vocal from guitarist Jim Wilbur, and it's not a good look. The cover of Motorhead's "I'll Be Your Sister" is also kind of pointless.
But there are a good dozen songs on here that I like as well as anything Superchunk's done. I love the missing title tracks "On the Mouth" and "Foolish" enough to wonder which song they should have replaced on their respective albums. "Cadmium" from the Australian EP Hit Self Destruct may just be my favorite Superchunk song EVER. With a chugging tempo and guitar interplay rubbing up against Mac's yelping vocals, it's the kind of song that Superchunk did best. And, with a great chorus and lyric that take it to another level, "Cadmium" alone justifies the existence of the hodgepodge of songs that is Incidental Music.
"Cadmium" by Superchunk