Listening to a New Pornographers’ album is like being driven at high speed in a VW Beetle, safe in the knowledge that you’re never going to cross the centre line, veer wildly off -course or, simply, run out of gas. There’s a blissfully warm feeling of security as, great song after great song, you realise there’ll be no blips or excruciating pitch issues. You know that the drummer can really drum, the singers can certainly sing and the song-writers have done a damn fine job. This Canadian indie rock super-group knows exactly what it’s doing and how it’s doing it.
The ‘celebrity’ members of The New Pornographers are Carl Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar and Kathryn Calder, each a Canadian star in his/her own right. The NP’s began as a side project in 1999 for these ridiculously talented individuals but, after 5 stellar albums, one wonders if the band has become more of a day job for its sometime members.
The NP’s are not everyone’s cup of char and, certainly, I couldn’t listen to their entire catalogue in one sitting. But if you’ve got a penchant for power-pop, admittedly perky and preppy at times, with addictive harmonies in a verse-chorus-verse format, you’ll be smitten.
The New Pornographers debut album was ‘Mass Romantic‘, a 12-track ode to Brit-pop but with a unique edge created by having so many musical talents under one roof. I remember reading a review where the writer commented on the members of the group having a ‘cumbersome sharing of duties’ although the music never actually ‘collapsed under its own weight’. I reckon the group has got better at sharing over time and I rate ‘Together’, their last album, as one of my best for 2010.
‘Together’ is insanely energising with its unstoppable drumming, guitar riffs and raw vocal power. ‘Moves’ and ‘Crash Years’, the first and second tracks, are memorable. Here’s ‘Moves’ – I love the video – anyone who denigrates themselves to this degree is right on-side with me:
A New Pornographer’s song can brighten your day. Try ‘Sing Me Spanish Techno‘ and ‘Use it’ for starters, both from the NP’s third album ‘Twin Cinema’ in 2005. These videos are completely mad, in a good way:
Some of the moments that get to me most are when the voices merge together, particularly Newman’s aristocratic, crisp elocution with Case’s brassy, country-edged vocals. You can hear this in the chorus to ‘Challengers’ from 2007’s album of the same name: