Morr Music, 2013


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


It's been a good year so far if you're into indie rock reissues. Morr Music dug out two old gems, the first two albums from James McNew's (of Yo La Tengo) project Dump. Recorded between 1991 and 1993, this new version of Dump's first album Superpowerless includes all 19 original tracks plus a 'D' side of eight additional rare tunes. On this lo-fi masterpiece of quirky and creative indie rock, McNew has also added several unusual covers to round out this highly sought after treasure. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This first installment of Dump has McNew's Yo La Tengo bandmates Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley helping out, giving it a more varied feeling than some of his later Dump records. Also, these songs were fleshed out over a couple years, adding to the diverse tones and ever-changing recording quality. It results in a very spontaneous feel, like you're listening to a mixed tape of what floats around the recesses of McNew's mind.

It's almost hard to believe songs so vast in structure and sound could come from the same person, though when you compare the chunky instrumental “The Sea Wall” versus the heartfelt cover of “Moon River” you pretty much realize McNew is not any ordinary musician. Of the several covers here, his version of Wreckless Eric's "Just For You" is the best, a cautious and soothing rendition of a song most people never heard to begin with.

Of the originals, you can tell McNew was influenced by early indie rock purveyors like Sebadoh and Archers Of Loaf, as tracks like “Secret Blood” and “The Quality Of Hurt” bare much resemblance to the post-punk meets college rock that was around in the early '90s. However, there's plenty of reverbed, glitchy, erratic noise packed in here, McNew's experimenting hitting its climax on tracks like “Outer Spaceways, Inc.”

Fans of Yo La Tengo will naturally flock to this, but so should those who fancy obscure covers or unusual and constantly shifting indie rock song craft. Though this was recorded onto a 4 track in a very DIY manner, probably never intended to be anything beyond primitive rough drafts, Superpowerless comes off as more vital than most modern day indie rock that has unlimited technology at its disposal – further proof of McNew's brilliance.

Rating: A

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