Album: Hello Hawk
. . .
Unlike Here’s Where The Strings Come In, the album where the strings actually came in for Superchunk was their final album of the 1990s, 1999’s Hello Hawk, which was produced by Jim O’Rourke, just before he got involved with the Sonic Youth story and the Wilco story.
Obviously, both a softening and thickening of a guitar band’s sound is going to happen eventually, but what I wasn’t prepared for was Hello Hawk to sport a song that ranks with my very favorite Superchunk songs: after the eternal “Mower” and the blast of “Slack Motherfucker,” I rate “Honey Bee” at the very highest of their songs, on the shortlist of Prettiest Songs Ever Recorded, Indie Rock Division.
“Honey Bee” starts with just a strummed guitar or two winding back on themselves, maybe a drumbeat here or there, as Mac McCaughan quietly sings the opening verse of a gorgeous break-up song.
There was a time I could keep up with you
When you were faithful and your compass true
But then an earwig loosened your last screw
Now you look at me like someone you once knew
At that point the beat comes in, and one of the guitars gets thick and fuzzy while the other winds around the the second verse, which Mac sings at a near-falsetto.
You are a comet, when you streak close by
The radios get weak
And all your teeth glow when you speak
Your language shocking, yes, but sweet
At this point “Honey Bee” fully explodes into a chorus which I think is the prettiest that Mac McCaughan ever wrote, supported by crunchy guitars, gorgeous harmonies and what sounds like a Hammond B-3 organ propping everything up.
And now you buzz yourself to sleep
You’re just a tired honey bee
Would you do this thing for me
Land softly, yeah
Land softly, yeah
After the first chorus, there’s a cool stop-time part where the band play around each other, before everything quiets down for one last verse.
These are the photos that I kept
That’s me crumbling bereft
But you’re still smiling on my left
So its not so serious as that
There was a time I would have laughed with you
I have to assume that — five years after the fact — this isn’t about breakup of Mac and Laura, but it’s its definitely a wistful break-up song, and I love Mac’s singing on “there was a time I would have laughed with you,” and on the second chorus, the harmonies on “you’re just a tired honey bee.”. Best of all, though, is the near-plead of “land softly,” which is so powerful and sad that she might even do it.
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