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No Pocky For Kitty





Release Date:


Reviewed by:
  PostLibyan, Tracers, and Malimus  

So, after making their debut record, Superchunk underwent a lineup change, replacing guitarist Jim McCook, with Jim Wilbur, who was to remain with the band for its career. Wilbur's presence is a noticeable improvement in their sound. McCook's sound was a wall of heavy riffing, a la late punk or heavy metal. Wilbur is more of a virtuoso, capable of playing a wide range of styles. On the debut, McCook and McCaughan's guitars often blurred together into one sonic mess. On No Pocky For Kitty there are two distinct guitar lines, clear, separate, and complimentary.

Wilbur's presence allowed band leader Mac McCaughan to branch out. His voice is clearer and more confident here. Additionally, the slower, less punkish songs from the debut, are expanded here, McCaughan proving he can write a catchy pop tune.

According to The Wikipedia Page for this album, Steve Albini was the actual producer of this record, even if he is uncredited. That explains the clarity of the sound.

The record starts off with a frantic flailing of the guitars in Skip Steps 1 & 3. A logical continuation of the first record, as McCaughan screams along, now with added backing vocals. It's fast, and a pretty good start to this record.

  This is how the first record should have sounded. I suspect the distinction between the songs off of the debut and this song are entirely due to the two changes mentioned above. Jim Wilbur is a far better player than McCook, and Steve Albini actually has some sort of clue as to how to record a rock band's sound.  
  The next tune abandons the punk framework and moves into pop territory. Seed Toss is a happy pop song with one guitar playing a jaunty melody, and the other grinding along. I like the lyrics on this one, McCaughan's knack for clever wordplay really shining for the first time.  
  Seed Toss is one of my favorite tunes on the record; it's a mid-tempo number and has a nice bouncy. Besides, who can resist a song with lyrics that assert "You'd better stay in my good graces"?  
  The third track is Cast Iron, a song which i never really considered all that remarkable. It's not bad, but it just don't wow me. However, this song was the winner in a fan poll Superchunk did several years ago, meaning that this is the "lowest common denominator" of Superchunk's tunes. It the song that annoys the lowest number of the fans who could be bothered to answer a web poll. This gives it a certain elevated status in their catalog, and while there are far worse songs, i just don't get it. It was not what i voted for, but whatever. However, when i go back and listen to it today, for this exercise, it reminds me a lot of Indoor Living. Perhaps it is popular because it is a mid-tempoed pop tune of the type that Superchunk were to do often. Who knows? I do like the squealing Jim Wilbur guitar solo at the end.  
  Okay, you're just wrong here, P. This is the first truly great Superchunk song. This is the song that cements the best of the elements that will make their next three albums classics. Mid-tempo power rock, exceptional lyrics and Mac managing an unforced delivery, backed up by near flawless rhythm and secondary guitar work. Features the classic line "Don't get uppity with me, I see things that you never see. I've been seeing them for years. Let me whisper in your ear." This is a fantastic song. (And yes, I voted for it as the best of the catalog.)  
  Sorry, Malimus, Im with PostLibyan on this one. It's serviceable enough, but even if you just look at No Pocky for Kitty, it's the third best mid-tempo number after Seed Toss and Throwing Things. And I won't even get into how it ranks next to songs that come afterwards (Detroit Has a Skyline, anyone?). Admittedly this one has a pretty catchy little bassline and the guitar solo at the end is cool. But the best of Superchunk's catalogue? No.  
  The next song points at Superchunk's past, as Tower sounds metallish with squealing guitars and thundering drums. Was this an outtake from their first album? With murkier production, it could have fit right in.  
  I always forget this song exists. I mean, I could listen to it right now and by the time it ends, I've forgotten it.  
  Punch Me Harder is Superchunk being silly; a fast, squealing punk pop tune. Actually, now that i listen to it again, it kind of reminds me of Precision Auto, although not quite as fully realized. I have always liked this song, and again the ending is a long drawn out squeal from Wilbur's guitar, which almost became a trademark for him. Overall, the guitarwork here is great, McCaughan and Wilbur really trading licks well. However, the drumming is lackluster, kind of holding the song back. This tune really needed Jon Wurster, but he was still an album away.  
  Love this song. I always assume it's a love song, because Punch Me Harder is right in line with the sort of love song Mac writes.  

Sprung a Leak is a meandering, pointless tune. It is the weakest on this record, and McCaughan's voice is buried in the mix, as if not even the mighty Albini could help it.

30 Xtra gets kind of catchy in the middle, but really this is almost Skip Steps 1 & 3 part two. That is, it starts with the same kind of tempo and guitar howl, then gets kind of jammy, the band hammering at their instruments in a way that is new for them at this point in their career.

Silliness is back with Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus. I consider this one of the classics from this record, starting with a chugging guitar riff and McCaughan yelling, then it descends into a chaos of grinding guitars, thudding drums, and yelling about destruction. Good stuff.

  Much like Punch Me, I love this song. "Take a straw to the rest of the dust." Just classic stuff here.  
  I always forget about Press, but i enjoy this tune. It's a little different for Superchunk in that Laura Ballance's bass is mixed way higher in the mix that it normally is. That said, this is a good fast punk tune, the guitars have that first album wall-effect.  
  This one is right up there with Cast Iron on the list of favorite early 'Chunk tunes. Again, it feels like this is what they wanted the debut to sound like, but they just didn't know how to execute that.  
  Sidewalk is a slower song, with McCaughan's voice way up front. Again, i am reminded of Indoor Living, but there are four other albums between that one and this one. Huh.  
  Like Slow and some of the other less remembered numbers from the debut, this is a song that presages where they're going as a band. Superchunk, at their best, are masters of the mid-tempo, bitch-broke-my-heart punk rock dirge.  

Creek is short, fast, and messy. It is really just a flurry of drums, screaming, and squealing guitars. It seems like this is filler on the record.

But then No Pocky For Kitty wraps up with what i consider to be the first truly brilliant Superchunk song, Throwing Things. The punk speed is abandoned for this one, and while one guitar grinds, the other plays a happy, catchy, and instantly recognizable little riff. The drums are sparser, which really helps the guitars stand out. The lyrics, while kind of silly, are fun to scream along with as you bounce like mad in concert, "Throwing things down on MEEEEeeeeeeeEEEEEE!" A great way to end a record.


I'm blowing up the street like a leaf.
I skin my back a few times you'll see
Head over heels, my hands on my heart
I'm making a promise, and that's a start.

Just a great song. Admittedly, I fell in love with the acoustic version from some collection of outtakes, first, but just a great song.

  Rank me as the third minion who adores this song. PostLibyan nails it by pointing out that this has melody that just sticks in your head. And it is indeed a great sing-along-with-the band moment. Although like Malimus, I am kind of partial to the acoustic version found on Incidental Music.  

So, this was the second record Superchunk released, but one of the last ones i got by the band. I don't think i owned a copy of this one until after Here's Where The Strings Come In. And i just never really got into this one. I know it is supposed to be their "masterpiece" and that Pitchfork or AllMusic will recommend it as their best work, but to me No Pocky For Kitty is just a hint at what is to come. That is, this is the record where McCaughan started realizing he could write pop tunes, and McCaughan and Wilbur starting collaborating on the brilliant guitarwork that would characterize their career. There are hints at what is to come, but to me they just aren't there yet.

One other thing is that this record lacks is a totally memorable, fistpumping, pogo-inducing anthem, like Slack Motherfucker, Precision Auto, or Detroit Has a Skyline. Throwing Things comes close in that it has a great riff and some interesting lyrics to scream along with, but it just doesn't hit the level of those other songs. It's a damned fine tune, but not quite on the same level, if that makes any sense. If they had a tune that powerful on this record, i would probably like it more. As it is, this is a good record, but not one that i come back to.

  Press, Tie a Rope To the Back Of the Bus, and Skip Steps 1 & 3 all qualify as anthems for me.  
  Tracers:   I like the truism wherein no anthem = not the best record. Certainly, one of Superchunk's best qualities as a band is the ability to craft driving poppy anthems that still have an indie meets punk feel. So yet again, Im with PostLibyan on this one (although, as we will see, our opinions of On the Mouth diverge).  
Related Links:

Also on EvilSponge:
   Introduction to Superchunk
   Album: Superchunk
   Compilation: Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)
   Album: On the Mouth
   Album: Foolish
   Compilation: Incidental Music 1991-95
   Album: Here's Where the Strings Come In
   EP: Laughter Guns
   Album: Indoor Living
   Album: Come Pick Me Up
   Album: Here's To Shutting Up
   Concert: Thu.8.Sep.11


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