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It doesn't always work when a prominent member of a long running band steps out of the fold to make a solo album. Often, such efforts end up being regarded as something for band completists to collect, or become saddled with that dreaded phrase "the side project".

As well as being the co-founder (together with Laura Ballance) of Merge Records, Mac McCaughan will always be synonymous with Superchunk. However, he does have a bit of previous form in terms of solo work, releasing six albums and many more EPs on his own under the name Portastatic, between 1994 and 2009. Following a bit of resurgence in Superchunk activity over the past few years, Mac has had the urge to release something solo again,yet this time under his own name for the first time.

Recorded at home over the past couple of years, Non Believers manages to break away from both the indie-rock sound of Superchunk and the lo-fi feel of Portastatic. This musical shift is evident from the start, with opening track 'Your Hologram' dominated by synths.

The instrumentation here - there are guitars of course, but synths and drum machines are utilised more - is deliberate given that the lyrical themes of Non Believers deal with the insecurities of late teenhood. Mac has sighted the album within a certain time frame,and it echoes the music of his late teens in order to do justice to those feelings.

Although the instrumentation is surprising, the songwriting has many echoes of his other band. On the aforementioned 'Your Hologram' a haunted synth line plays the lead, and the song has one of those yearning melodies which Superchunk do so well.

'Our Way Free' is the closest to Portstatic in terms of sound, and 'Box Batteries' with its anthemic chorus could easily fit on any Superchunk album. 'Lost Again' takes Superchunk's song craft and blends it with post-punk skeletal instrumentation, with bass to the fore and a drum machine tapping away in the background.

There are plenty of guitars on 'Only Do' but they strum instead of shred, and there is a catchy, new wave style catchy chorus. 'Barely There' has a similar sound, although it is more influenced by American new wave - think the Replacements rather than the Cure.

For all the those tracks which fizz with the energy of that pop-punk era, the big highlights on Non Believers occur when he turns on the melancholy and gets introspective. 'Mystery Flu' has an eerie downbeat side to it, Mac's voice raw over some stripped down synth parts.

'Come Upstairs' sees chugging guitars meet sweeping synths whilst 'Real Darkness' is unsurprisingly more melancholic. It's a beautiful song, and guitars jangle and chime over that drum machine.

'Wet Leaves' is the most overtly synth-pop tune here, with the lyrical refrain - "one foot on wet leaves, one foot on concrete"- summing up all the insecurities which are at the heart of the album.

It is interesting that Mac chose to release this album under his own name, almost as if he is deliberately pitching it from a time when there was no Superchunk, or Portastatic, or Merge. He is out there on his own, playing it all himself, freed from expectation. It is fitting as well that his desire to use synths and drum machines has led to a more naïve way of playing. This isn't a slick indie-rock record, although it is a very good one. This is the sound of someone feeling their way back into the music of their youth, and the end result is so much more than a vanity side project.

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