The New Pornographers
The New Pornographers are fringe-dwellers in an outsider genre. That genre is power pop,
a residence and way station for the Big Star obsessed, the Fountains of Wayne passionate, and the Teenage Fanclub enraptured. Carl Newman, Neko Case and the rest of the nine-strong group eschew most of these genre norms, however, and stick close to a sound that revels in psychedelia and has only the slightest appreciation for lyrical prowess.
This neglect of lyricism dominates the band’s third album, Twin Cinema. Unlike past albums, where the lyrics served as a complement to the revelry of their music, this time the words reflect a witty post-modern dissection of the super-group dynamic. These words exist merely to show how much fun everyone is having being away from the daily grind of their “main projects.”
This escapism is especially evident in the leadoff and title track. Non-sensical and cryptic lines ranging in subject from streets in San Francisco to “home theaters, still projecting” burst as they project from Carl Newman’s scratchy, almost-falsetto voice.
It is no surprise, then, that some of the time the lyrics are barely audible, hidden under layers of guitars. These guitars frame the sound of the record, and create some of the most appealing noise heard this year. They do betray a sluggishness that stands in stark contrast to the high-energy explsion of melody heard on the first two records.
As such, it seems that the gig is getting tired, for the listener and for the band. On this record there appears to be a lack of dedication displayed at the hands of the group. The shock of the new, and the feel of working with musicians the band members have admired for so long no longer retains the excitement it once had. Whereas on their first two albums one heard an eager mash of styles, here the group seems to be writing
a textbook pop album. There is the leadoff single, an uptempo, incredibly catchy number with a raucous hook and the requisite country-inspired ballads (derived from Neko Case’s roots in that genre). Throughout the album, there is everything in between, a stylistic mash fans have come to expect from the band.
Nevertheless, this album is nothing if
not entertaining. It is impossible to not enjoy oneself when listening to the fruits of incredibly talented musicians coming together to record in a genre for which they all have an immense reverence. Yet, it still seems important that the band members move on. The idea was great when it started, and arguably produced the best two pop records of the decade as of yet. But like all supergroups, they need to realize that the best way to preserve a legacy is to keep it short and leave the focus to the musicians themselves. That way existing on the fringe will not be so bad.