Sunday, September 2, 2007


The New Pornographers are a throwback — not only because of their Brian Wilson-tinged melodies, but because they’re a band that has been allowed to get better over time. Back in the day, a major label would have signed them, they’d sell more records with each release, and then they’d have the breakout hit that would reward the label’s patience. But the short-sightedness that dominates today’s record industry simply has no place for a band like this anymore. Their loss, our gain.
     Challengers, The New Pornographers’ fourth record, which comes on the heels of 2005’s powerful Twin Cinemas, sees the alt-supergroup on the verge of a breakout. Song after song hits its mark, as songwriters-slash-vocalists A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar take turns outdoing one another. While Bejar provides three of the album’s best moments (“Entering White Cecilia,” “The Spirit of Giving,” and the hokey-but-it-works “Myriad Harbour”), Newman’s “My Rights Versus Yours” is the album’s high-water mark: a heavily layered, triumphant insta-classic, complete with an obvious nod to ELO (no strangers to power pop themselves).
     While their sound can get a little too close to a Polyphonic-Spree preciousness, it’s the songs that matter most here. Prior to listening to Challengers, I read an interview with Newman where he talks about rhyming “deus ex machina” with “good morning Christina.” How pretentious, I thought. But on “Go Places” – the song with those lines, sung with restraint by indie diva Neko Case — it becomes the album’s most touching moment. Well done. A-
The New Pornographers: My Rights Versus Yours (mp3)
The New Pornographers: Go Places (mp3)

No comments: