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LIVE

Superchunk

by Shawn Despres

Dubbed the 19th best single of the 1990s by American mainstream rock rag Spin, the fuzzed-out, power pop anthem “Slack Motherf*cker” from Superchunk’s 1990 eponymous debut helped push them to the forefront of the U.S. underground music scene. With A&R reps scrambling to unearth alt-rock superstars to cash in on Nirvana’s and their Seattle brethren’s successes, the Chapel Hill, North Carolina quartet were tagged with “Next Big Thing” status and became unwilling participants in a major-label bidding war for their services.

Valuing their independence, they instead issued their work through Matador Records and later through Merge Records, an imprint founded by guitarist Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Balance. Superchunk released eight full-lengths, most of which are regarded as indie-rock classics, between 1990 and 2001 and gigged extensively. They toured Japan in 1992 and 2001. At the time, their stop at Shibuya AX on their latter visit was the largest concert they had headlined and footage from the show was included on 2004′s “Crowding Up Your Visual Field” DVD.

Family obligations and endeavors such as McCaughan and Balance’s Merge Records, whose roster now boasts chart-toppers Arcade Fire and Spoon, have kept everyone occupied since the end of 2002. Archived material has surfaced on 2003′s “Cup of Sand” B-sides and rarities compilation and on four volumes of their “Clambakes” live-album series, but the band has been largely inactive until this year. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of both Superchunk and Merge, they issued April’s “Leaves in the Gutter” EP, their first new CD in eight years, and regrouped for appearances at Coachella and Merge’s birthday bash. According to published accounts, they haven’t lost any of the youthful exuberance from their heyday, which bodes well for fans attending their upcoming Japan dates.

Superchunk play Dec. 9 at O-West, Tokyo (7 p.m.; ¥5,500 in advance; [03] 5784-7088); Dec. 10 at O-Nest, Tokyo (7 p.m.; ¥4,500 in advance; [03] 3462-4420); Dec. 11 at Club Metro, Kyoto (7 p.m.; ¥4,000 in advance; [075] 752-4765); Dec. 13 at Fandango, Osaka (7 p.m.; ¥4,000 in advance; [06] 6308-1621); Dec. 14 at Apollo Theater, Nagoya (8 p.m.; ¥4,000 in advance; [052] 261-5308). Tickets for all shows will cost ¥500 more at the door. For more information, visit www.contrarede.com.