As if he doesn't have enough to do, Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and Merge Records fame has been putting out solo records under the name Portastatic since 1993. While Portastatic seems to give Mac the freedom to experiment with some more sedate sounds and arrangements that don't fit Superchunk's caffeinated aggression, every consecutive Superchunk record is invariably influenced by Portastatic's explorations. Piano, synths, and horns made their way on to Superchunk's 1999 LP Come Pick Me Up after Mac toyed around with them on the 1997 Portastatic LP The Nature of Sap first. Yet throughout, he's got the same knack for peeling back his own flesh to show you the pain and angst in his naked soul, and the same way with both a tender phrase and a barbed rejoinder. If Superchunk represents the fight with your girlfriend, Portastatic sounds more like the end of the night -- winding down afterward with your head on your hand on the bar, bitter as hell and still in love, tearing the labels off your beers and wishing you'd said the right thing. Or at least that life didn't suck so hard. The funny thing is, and this is gonna sound corny, but maybe life isn't so bad if Portastatic's playing and you know some other shmoe has suffered well past closing time, too.