For those who miss the raw, adolescent, power-crunch pop of Superchunk's early days, Mac McCaughan's new Portastatic album may be disappointing. The Merge Records head honcho has crafted his most adult effort to date, full of oboe, flute, and string arrangements over a lazy, North Carolina drawl of guitars, bass, and gently sweeping drums. From the summer afternoon, AM Gold of "Black Buttons" to Mac's Freddie Mercury-evoking vocal blast at the start of "I'm in Love (With Arthur Gold)," it's impossible not to reflect on how far he's come since the days of the first four-track Portastatic excursions of the mid-'90s. His voice may sound almost exactly the same as it did on the 'Chunk classic "Slack Motherfucker," and the power chords may have simply been switched from electric to acoustic, but this is the older, gentler McCaughan. Sure, there are a few spiraling guitar solos, but the cheery feeling of songs like the mid-paced soft-rocker "Cheers and Applause" sets the tone. While not lacking in musical quality, the exuberant guitar-rock sparks of yesteryear are missing amidst the adult-alternative direction Be Still Please is heading in. Guess that's what happens when our indie rock heroes grow up.
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