I have been listening to Mac McCaughan for over 20 years at this point, and this is his first "solo album". That is, this is the first time that Mac stepped away from collaboration and fully wrote a record himself. I wonder why he finally decided to do so?
Well, i am glad that he did. This is one of the better albums that i have heard in a while, and is the best thing that i have heard from Mac since 1997. Well, that might not be strictly true -- i really liked 2013 I Hate Music, but is it really better than Indoor Living? Hmm, i dunno about that. It's too close to call.
At any rate, this is a really cool record. You don't even have to be a Superchunk fan to enjoy it. Mac is stepping out and making music that is kind of different from what Superchunk does. This is a record of slower-paced songs that are often introspective and usually a little "new wave" as compared to the "punk" of Superchunk. Mac on his own croons and speaks his lines instead of screaming in his high-pitched voice, and he uses a lot of keyboards. These songs are minimal and sparse, and catchy and fun and interesting.
The album starts with Your Hologram a nice mid-tempoed song that is downright messy. Lots of noises float in and out over a grinding guitar. Mac speaks rather than sings, his voice lower in register as he kid of growls. He sounds hoarse – is he growling because he hurt his throat, or is the growling causing vocal injury? Either way, this song has a nice swinging beat though.
On Lost Again Mac channels his inner 80s teenage goth. The bass is a slippery deep riff and the guitar chimes nicely. It's a pretty minimal song, just those and his somewhat melancholy vocals. He moves on the channeling Yoda on Only Do when he sings "There is no try, there is only do". Use the Force Mac! This is a fun tune though with a bouncy rhythm and keyboards in silly layers sliding against each other.
Mystery Flu is another somewhat mournful tune. A slowly strummed guitar pairs with some synths and his voice. The album picks back up for Our Way Free which has a steady beat with a happier tempo with some really nice guitarwork.
Box Batteries is a great rocker. Mac strums furiously against a quickly ticking drum machine. He adds in a full band sound here, and it just rocks along. I think this is the closest he gets to Superchunk on this record, and it's a damned fun tune.
He follows this up by sounding, vaguely, like The Psychedelic Furs on Real Darkness. His guitar grinds in chiming layers like John Ashton in those old Furs records. He plays over a drum machine kicking a swaying, dancey beat, and Mac positively croons along. I really like this one.
Barely There has a swinging beat and a riff that sounds like something i would have heard on the radio in the mid-1990s, back when Mac's band wouldn't have gotten a lot of airplay. He kicks of Wet Leaves with an eerie David Lynch-style keyboard thunking and a slippery bass beat riff. He then adds a happy little drum machine and some silly keyboards. This is a light fun song, Mac's voice echoed and with sometime Superchunk keyboardist Annie Hayden singing along. It sways nicely.
The record ends with Come Upstairs. The song is driven by a nice little drum machine riff and soaring keys. Mac's guitar is chaotic, just all over the place. This is a catchy and fun song to end the record on.
I really like Non-Believers. There are a lot of really fun tunes here. Then again, i am kind of a fanboy of Mac McCaughan, so your mileage may vary. Still, i think this is a worthwhile pop album.