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5 things to know about Superchunk. They're putting politics front and center.

For most of its three decades, Superchunk has expressed its politics by action and implication rather than spelling them out. The Chapel Hill band's new album "What A Time To Be Alive" sets the tone right out of the gate with the title track, a blast of claron-call guitars and lyrics of pure agitprop bile.
For most of its three decades, Superchunk has expressed its politics by action and implication rather than spelling them out. The Chapel Hill band's new album "What A Time To Be Alive" sets the tone right out of the gate with the title track, a blast of claron-call guitars and lyrics of pure agitprop bile. Lissa Gotwals

For most of Superchunk's three decades, the Chapel Hill band has expressed its politics by action and implication, rather than spelling them out. No more.

Their new album, "What A Time To Be Alive," sets the tone right out of the gate with the title track, a blast of claron-call guitars and lyrics of pure agitprop bile.

The scum, the shame, the (expletive) lies/Oh what a time to be alive.

There's plenty more where that came from on the album's other 10 songs, which are mostly furious hit-and-run rants — "Reagan Youth," "Lost My Brain" and "Bad Choices" among them — against the Trump administration in Washington, D.C.

"You scare the kids/I hope you die scared/Of all the kids that know the truth," frontman Mac McCaughan hollers in his forever-young yelp on "Cloud of Hate."

We checked in with McCaughan about what a time to be alive it is in advance of Superchunk's April 27 show at Cat's Cradle. Here's what we learned.

1. The album is stripped down

"Oh What A Time To Be Alive" is the most stripped-down Superchunk album in decades, with nothing but guitar, bass, drums and a few guest vocalists.

"This is our first record since (1994's) 'Foolish' without any keyboards," McCaughan said. "These songs just did not seem to need anything like that, there was no call for a lot of decoration. The guitars were doing all the melodic stuff that needed to be done."

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Superchunk's new album "What A Time To Be Alive." Merge Records

2. It's also one of the briefest

The album is 32 minutes total with a song that might be Superchunk's shortest ever: "Cloud of Hate," which checks in at 73 seconds.

"We wrote that one in the studio," McCaughan said. "We had recorded all the songs we knew and were still set up, and the engineer asked if we had anything else we wanted to record before breaking down the drums. It seemed a shame to waste a couple of hours, so we just wrote that over lunch. We were thinking it might be a B-side, but it turned out really well. There's a feeling on it that's definitely of a piece with the rest of the record."

3. The political is personal

Despite the more universal subject material, McCaughan still feels like this is a very personal record.

"The challenge when writing about what's happening in the world now is not to do it in a way that's just polemical or a rehash of current events," McCaughan said. "That's boring, because everybody's getting enough news all the time now. So it has to be personal. I don't know any other way.

"What's happening now is enraging, whether it's this con artist getting elected or Republicans pretending not to notice all the shady stuff so they can transfer more wealth to their rich friends. Looking at the world these people in power are creating, which is a world my kids will grow up in, is super-personal. And when you know immigrants or other people who will suffer from laws being passed, that's personal, too. It hits very close to home."

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For most of its three decades, Superchunk has expressed its politics by action and implication rather than spelling them out. The Chapel Hill band's new album "What A Time To Be Alive" sets the tone right out of the gate with the title track, a blast of claron-call guitars and lyrics of pure agitprop bile. Lissa Gotwals

4. Their fans have kids now

After 29 years, Superchunk has gotten to the stage where longtime fans bring their kids to the shows now.

"It varies from night to night, often depending on whether or not it's an all-ages show," McCaughan said. "We're lucky to have fans who have followed us from the beginning. I still meet people who say things like, 'I've not seen you since 1994.' 'Wow, what have you been doing the last 24 years?'

"But it's great they're still engaged, and it's awesome when they bring their kids. The more mixed the crowd is, age-wise, the livelier and more fun it is."

5. Optimism is hard to come by

"You just have to try and get through the day, look for what you can do without going out of your mind," McCaughan said. "How do you live in this world and remain a productive member of society when everything's going in such a wrong direction? You can't ignore it, but you've got to pull your head out of the news cycle sometime.

"Music is one way to get together and do something other than talk about whatever (expletive)-up thing Jeff Sessions just did. People are connecting with this record and the shows have been great."

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi

Details

What: Superchunk with Rock*a*teens

When: 9 p.m. Friday, April 27

Where: Cat's Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

Cost: $16 advance, $18 day of show

Details: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com

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