Portastatic – “I Wanna Know Girls”


Album: Bright Ideas

Released: 2005

Label: Merge

Mac McCaughan is the singer/guitarist/leader of Superchunk and several other side-projects, including Portastatic. The band’s 5th album, 2005’s Bright Ideas, was released on McCaughan’s own Merge label and it’s the only Portastatic album that I’m familiar with, but once you’ve heard one McCaughan song you’ve heard them all. This is not a complaint – there’s something honorable about being so consistent in rock music, especially when you’ve been playing music for over 20 years across several bands. Few songwriters can use a guitar to come up with great riffs and melodies album after album across decades. Many of his songs sound the same, but they’re all pretty good to really great.

“I Wanna Know Girls” might be McCaughan’s best song, with Portastatic or any of his other bands, including Superchunk.

Because this is a McCaughan song, you can already guess at its sound – driving melodic guitars, not too distorted but plenty loud, his signature slacker everyman voice, the never flashy push of the drums and bass, etc. This is a no-fuss rock song if there ever was one. However, what makes this song so special is that it’s such an affectionate and positive love song, which is something I don’t hear much in rock music. It’s McCaughan celebrating women and trying to find the right one (“I wanna know girls, but only love one”). There’s no sense of anger or isolation towards love – it’s just a positive jam looking on the bright side of life.

Why is it so rare to find good songs that don’t channel anger in relation to love? Most of my favorite songs are about heartbreak and isolation, and any song I think is “positive” isn’t usually considered “good”. Jimmy Eats World and Nada Surf are two exceptions that come to mind, but other than that I keep these rare positive jams whenever I find them.

That’s the next revival I want – Superchunk-Positive-Vibes-Core. Make it happen Brooklyn.

The rest of Bright Ideas is just as pleasant as this song, and, if you don’t think too hard, it sounds just like late-career Superchunk.