It can't be easy for Superchunk to push its music forward after so long a tenure as the indie-rock poster band: seven years ago its noisy, hyperactive, and exceedingly tuneful punk rock practically heralded the Amerindie explosion. Over the years the Chapel Hill quartet has continued to make fine music, honing its methods and slowing things down and tooling with dynamics, but it's gotten harder and harder to shake the feeling that the band's moment has passed. On its sixth album, Indoor Living (Merge), Superchunk delivers the usual dependable hooks, but also mixes up its formula more than ever. (Thankfully, though, "Song for Marion Brown" is not the hapless bit of indie rock posing as free jazz that its title suggests.) As on his solo outings as Portastatic, vocalist-guitarist Mac McCaughan trades the passionate roar of yore for singing that could almost be called delicate. On tunes like "Marquee" and "Every Single Instinct" he limns the fragile melodies so gently they seem in danger of breaking at any moment. Elsewhere the band veers more sharply away from the predictable riffs, verses, and choruses of its early stuff. "Watery Hands," for instance, employs the sort of sweet, restrained synth line that laces the Sea and Cake's The Biz--though the remix on the b-side of the single version suggests the band should fool no further with electronica. But "Nu Bruises" and "The Popular Music" prove that the band hasn't forgotten the power of short and sweet, which still comes across quite vividly in its live shows. Wednesday, 8 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 772-404-5080. Thursday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. Peter Margasak
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Stephen Aubuchan.