Somewhere out in the ether, a near-complete collection of “invigorating power pop” tunes recorded by Superchunk frontman and Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan exists. It’s a tantalizing prospect—enough to have a fan of his jittery indie rock band or Portastatic, his more subdued and eclectic solo project, giddy with anticipation. And it certainly would have been a savvy move for McCaughan’s first solo album under his own name.
Soon after deciding to finish the album that would become the new Non-Believers, McCaughan changed course. He returned instead to his fascination with changing punk trends of the early ’80s, a time when the genre’s virulent aggression started to give way to more subdued and emotional fare of early post-punk. Languid keys and softly thumping drums replaced ragged riffs, as bands like The Cure delivered songs that focus on personal feelings of isolation rather than heated revolutionary rhetoric. “I’m constantly discovering and consuming new music,” McCaughan offers in Merge’s recent press release, “so why does an old New Order song trigger the kind of emotional response that it does?”
Non-Believers is the new set of songs he wrote and recorded while pondering such questions, and the two-minute album trailer Merge unveiled yesterday should whet appetites quite well. A beaten down drum machine girds earnestly chiming electric guitar and wistful, whirring synthesizer, as a hand-held camcorder captures suburban houses sliding past a car window. The instrumental has the feel of Superchunk’s restless vigor turned to simmer.
But I still really want to hear that abandoned power pop album someday, even if Non-Believers sounds like a winner.