It’s never easy being the first to do something. Not because originality’s hard to come by–though it is–but because certain hard-to-maintain standards tend to be established. Chapel Hill’s Superchunk busted out in 1990 with their low-rent self-empowerment anthem “Slack Motherfucker,” and the debut album that followed shortly was drenched in a similar spirit, pushing the emotion-laden, superhooky punk rock pioneered by Husker Du with both more kinetic energy and more precision. Over the course of three subsequent albums, indie-rock malcontents have groused about the band losing it, but truth is that while gaining popularity Superchunk have successfully kept their music changing. They’re also dyed-in-the-wool DIYers, not only resisting plenty of major label deals and eschewing managment offers but, with their most recent record, Foolish, jumping from the ultrahip Matador label to their self-run imprint Merge. The new record finds them continuing to stretch their abilities: the arrangements are more complicated, the melodies better developed, Mac McCaughan’s singing improved. They’ve held onto their trademark sound–Laura Ballance’s slow, rumbling bass wrapped in McCaughan and Jim Wilbur’s surging, billowing, and slashing guitars, all propelled by the straight power of Jon Wurster’s drums–but they’ve consciously refined, honed, and reshaped it. Now if they’d only stop the pogo dancing . . . Polvo (see separate Critic’s Choice) and Sprawl (see Spot Check) open. Friday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Claire.