Here's to Shutting Up is all that, a predominantly quiet, unusually somber album from a band that built its early reputation on jagged, noisy anthems that mingled punk urgency (supplied by singer Mac McCaughan's impassioned, off-kilter vocals) with gleefully no-wave, dissonant wank 'n' roll.
Since Here's Where the Strings Come In (1995) and the tremendously satisfying Indoor Living (1997), the dyed in their woolen sweaters indie quartet, Superchunk have been slowly coursing away from noisy and in to pretty. At the same time, they've settled into an approximation of underground rock maturity with lyrics that celebrate the simple, silly and odd profundities of life. But where Indoor Living was a perfect bridge between the edgy early years and the group's emerging sonic domestication, Here's to Shutting Up actually flirts -- that's flirts -- with tedium.
The wonderful "Late-Century Dream" gently kicks off the album with McCaughan's friendly, immediate warble and a wry observation or two about art and modern life ("Everybody's trying to make space around what they think they've got"). "Phone Sex" has a country twang. "Rainy Streets" truly rocks anthemic, though a couple others (like "Out on the Wing") try but fail to hit the mark ("The Animal Has Left its Shell" and the album closer, "Drool Collection," are just plain weak). But on "What Do You Look Forward To?" the band's honest lyrics and divergent instrumentals (dig that crazy organ trilling away Yo La Tengo-style) favorably conspire -- opening the door to future, perhaps more engaging, works of loveliness from this gang of fierce indie rock pioneers.