I will freely admit that in the summer of 1999 I thought that Tearror Twilight and Come Pick Me Up were fairly big disappointments. Hindsight has proven me wrong, especially about the Superchunk. While I don't go back to that final Pavement record beyond a few singles, I had been dipping heavily into that Superchunk record even before Merge Records announced their upcoming remastered reissue of the record.
One of the benefits of having such a long commute in Hong Kong was that I was loading up my iPod with stuff I had sort of neglected for a few years. And while "Hellow Hawk" and "You Can Always Count On Me (In The Worst Way)" were always on my device and in heavy rotation, stuff like "June Showers" was not. It, like so many of the mid-tempo tunes here, is a fantastic piece of songwriting. Riding a sort of bass-hook for a spell, it suddenly erupts into one of Mac McCaughan's most hopeful, big choruses. When he sings "Don't give up" near the coda, I get a little tingle up my spine and remember why I love this band so much.
This remastered reissue of Come Pick Me Up, out next week via Merge Records, does indeed sound fantastic. There seems to be much, much clearer separation between the vocals and individual instruments now. And while I'm no audiophile genius, the record does indeed have a sharper sound in this edition. That's no slight on co-producer Jim O'Rourke but, rather, an acknowledgement that the record has now been matched with the latest technological advances since the year that The Phantom Menace came out.
O'Rourke's touch can be heard so clearly on stuff like "Pulled Muscle" which now positively rings with a sort of faux-soul veneer even as the guitars and bass wrestle underneath the smooth vocals.
"Cursed Mirror" chimes like The La's in spots while the glorious busyness of "1000 Pounds" is still apparent. "Good Dreams" offers a nod in the direction of early Superchunk offerings while "Low Branches" uses its lopsided time signature to wonderful effect. Laura Ballance's bass is highlighted in this new mix, most obviously on "Pink Clouds" while the guitars sound somehow more plaintive on "Honey Bee" than they might have 16 years ago.
And what of my 2 favorite songs on Come Pick Me Up? I can say that I still rate "You Can Always Count On Me (In The Worst Way)" highly. In fact, I'm pretty sure that a 10-track Best of Superchunk would, if compiled by me, include that closing cut. It's a subtle and inspiring song still. There's real complexity here in the way that eventual release in the song arrives. I still dig it tremendously.
As for "Hello Hawk" I can say that it's like hearing the song all over again for the first time as the remastering is that good. An odd choice for a single, the song still rocks and charms.
This reissue of Come Pick Me Up is rounded off with 3 acoustic versions of songs on this album, plus 5 demos. Of the demos, the highlight is a demo of "White Noise" from the 1,000 Pounds EP.
Grab this reissue of what I would now consider to be one of the best Superchunk albums. I was a critical jerk in 1999. Come Pick Me Up is loaded with songs I somehow didn't fully appreciate back then.
Come Pick Me Up is out next week via Merge Records.