Music » Album Reviews

Record Review


Just as the expanding scope of rock radio required a category known as "classic rock," so has indie rock sufficiently grown up to demand a similar classification. "Classic indie-rock" as we'll call it, cuts off somewhere just before the Pixies, Pavement and Nirvana groundswells of the early '90s, delineating the era of what we once called "college rock.

It's this strain of indie-rock that's most recalled during repeated spins of Portastatic's The Summer of the Shark. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course, if you discount the fact that Portastatic is the long-running side project of Superchunk's Mac McCaughan. If you do, then the bar for listener expectations rests a bit higher than the lazy summer-afternoon melodies and basement practice-room strumming that give Shark its foundation. Gone, for instance, are the deep Tropicalia immersions of 2001's Looking for Leonard soundtrack.

Gone, in fact, are any traces of progression. Yes, Shark boasts Portastatic's familiar skewed time signatures and intermittent squeaks and squalls. But by now, those touches are as comfortable as a late-'80s Grapes of Wrath tour shirt. The murky instrumental "Through a Rainy Lens" aside, there's little on Shark that suggests the pathfinding spirit of '90s indie-rock, much less of the 21st century. For every rocking "Drill Me," Shark offers hummable alt-pop structures ("Chesapeake," "Don't Disappear" and "Noisy Night"). Pleasurable listens, even if they're a tad too evocative of an era long past, back before "alt" and "indie" became acceptable musical prefixes.

Portastatic plays Fri., June 13, at the Earl. $6.

Add a comment