Recording information: Brooklyn, NY (1991-1993); Providence, Hoboken, NJ (1991-1993).
Illustrator: Joe Puleo.
Photographer: Anne Clark .
Recorded between 1991 and 1993, the 19 tracks on James McNew's first album under the name Dump are considerably different from his later albums. For one thing, McNew uncharacteristically enlists the help of his Yo La Tengo bandmates Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley on a handful of songs (he also covers "So Sedimentary," a song from a cartoon by Hubley's animator parents, Faith and John Hubley, co-written by a young Quincy Jones), as well as his buddy Dave Ramirez from Hypnolovewheel. The outside influence lets McNew's songs breathe a little more than they do on the more lo-fi follow-ups, and the fact that these songs were recorded one at a time over the course of a couple of years gives them more variety; McNew's vocals are also a little bit more self-assured here, with less of the tremulousness that characterizes his singing on the later albums. The problem is that the songs are all over the place in terms of quality, and even some of the best, like the propulsive instrumental "The Sea Wall," feel underwritten. There's a difference between rough-edged and half-baked, and parts of Superpowerless, unfortunately, fall toward the latter. However, McNew's legendary sense of which songs to cover is absolutely spot-on here. Besides a pair of great Wreckless Eric and NRBQ covers, McNew essays Sun Ra's "Outer Spaceways, Inc." and a terrific reconstruction of the Shaggs' "Shaggs' Own Thing," turning the na‹ve original into something closer to a normal pop song. The album's highlight, though, is a perfectly sincere, utterly lovely version of Henry Mancini's "Moon River" that honestly belongs in any consideration of the best versions of this much-covered tune. ~ Stewart Mason