There are very few things that one can count on in this turbulent world, and of those most are incredibly unpleasant. There is one however, a very positive one, on which I have come to rely. That is the relentless integrity and consistently stellar creative output of Mac McCaughan.
On Portastatics new album, Bright Ideas, we find Mac offering ten new songs, which flow along touching on a bouquet of various styles and arrangements effortlessly, always anchored by the immediacy of his exuberant voice. The first Portastatic album to be recorded in its entirety in a proper studio (Tiny Telephone in San Francisco by Tim Mooney of American Music Club and mixed by producer icon Brian Paulson) it once again features excellent drum contributions by Macs brother, Matthew McCaughan, as well as bass work by fellow Superchunkist, Jim Wilbur. Although the trio makes up the bulk of the powerful performances, Portastatic remains a flexible entity willing to incorporate whatever instruments and players are needed to fulfill the promise of the song. From the summertime rock anthems of White Wave or Soft Rewind, to the eerie Americana of Truckstop Cassettes, to the beautiful lullaby Full of Stars, the record deepens with each listen. It expands on themes of disillusionment, frustration with the world, love of friends and family, the battle between regret and hope, and the blurry stream of events that connect the past to the present and bring an increasingly terrifying future into focus.
In July of 2003, around the time Mac began the writing process for Bright Ideas, his daughter, Oona, was born. In many of the songs you can hear the concern at what kind of world she and her generation are inheriting. A legitimate concern yes, but with more music this pure and defiant and a few more people as aware and brave as Mac making it, the future may still have a fighting chance.