Portastatic

Naked Pilsners

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    6
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AllMusic Review by

On this low-key three-track outing from Superchunk leader Mac McCaughan, the songs never really rise above a whisper and, while quite fragile, are also heart-wrenching. Opening with the title track, McCaughan and Jennifer Walker share subtle harmonies on a tender song whose simple acoustic progression is beautifully comforting. "Feel Better" is a noisier offering, with lo-fi distortion wrangling all sorts of noises from a sloppily strummed guitar. It's a good try at a more inventive style, but the big payoff comes when McCaughan strips back to just his acoustic guitar and voice, most notably on the final track, a cover of the Magnetic Fields' "Josephine." Over Steven Merritt's touching lyrics about a Napoleon in search of his Josephine, a side of the singer emerges that doesn't come through in his more rock-oriented work. It's a beautiful ballad, and it's done almost more justice in this version than in its original incarnation. Portastatic may be more of a side project than anything else but, in a case like this, it is a worthwhile outlet for songs that wouldn't sound right in the Superchunk setting.

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