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For What I Don't Become

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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My Sell-Out

Portastatic: Matthew McCaughan, Mac McCaughan, and Jim Wilbur

After a 10-year (so far) career in journalism predicated in part on the notion that PR operatives are the enemy and that press releases are to be scrutinized only for laughably inarticulate turns of phrase and delusional thinking, rather than useful information, I have descended into flackery.

But it's the good kind. I was thrilled--like a 13-year-old getting a new bike thrilled, embarrassingly so--last month to get a call from the good people at Merge Records, asking if I was available to write the press bio for Portastatic, Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan's other band, which has a deeply rocking and hummable new record coming out. Portastatic had never had an official bio as such, and I guess Mac liked a piece I wrote for the Chicago Tribune--since lost to the web--two years ago on the last Portastatic full-length, Summer of the Shark, which I called "the most effective and moving musical answer yet" to what happened on September 11, 2001. Which it is. (If you are wary of a concept record about September 11, you are right to feel that way, and you should know that Summer of the Shark is the best record of the last three years.)

I have been fanatical about McCaughan and Superchunk and Portastatic ever since I saw Superchunk at the University of Wisconsin student union in 1994, touring for Foolish. I won't gush here (you can read the bio for that), but Superchunk is the best rock band since the Replacements, Mac is a hero of mine, and I'm very proud to be involved in some small way with helping promote the new Portastatic record, Bright Ideas. It comes out in August on Merge, the North Carolina label founded in 1989 by Mac and Superchunk's bass player, Laura Ballance. Aside from Superchunk and Portastatic, Merge has found and nurtured a downright astonishing roster of artists over the past 15 years, from The Magnetic Fields to Spoon to The Arcade Fire to Neutral Milk Hotel to ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead &c.

The bio is here. Every word is true.