Anyone waiting for a reprise of On The Mouth was probably disappointed albums ago, so it should come as no surprise to current Superchunk fans that the new album, Here's To Shutting Up, is another subdued affair compared to the anxious, feedback frenzy of the first four albums. What's replaced the unbridled energy is greater attention to melody and structure wedded to a sense of adventurousness. On the last album, this expressed itself with rich arrangements incorporating strings and horns going far enough on "Pink Clouds" to resemble a Burt Bacharach composition, while here it's apparent in the central role of keyboards on the album. "Rainy Streets" puts a plucky organ sound in service of a more typically furious 'Chunk attack, but the sound is better realized on the single, "Late Century-Dream," providing excellent accent (along with cello and violin) to a moody meditation on hope which wouldn't sound out of place on a Portastatic album (Singer/guitarist Mac McCaughan's side project).
Elsewhere, pedal steel gives "Phone Sex" a warm, lazy country feel, while the slow-burn "Florida's on Fire" benefits from beautiful deployment of cello and a wonderful guitar outro. McCaughan's vocals improve with each release and his airy tenor receives a lot of help in the form of catchy hooks and melodies, but clever mid-album cuts like "Act Surprised," and "Art Class" have to overcome being sandwiched around too many lesser lights (several built around keyboard lines).
The single arguably features the album's best two cuts (the single and an acoustic demo of "Florida's on Fire"), as well as two non-album tracks. "Becoming a Speck" features a catchy, propulsive backbeat and the kind of pent-up energy one expects from Superchunk, while the pastoral finger-plucking folk of "The Length of Las Ramblas," shines with an innocent Big Star sweetness.