The New Pornographers
First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2003, Volume 10, #7
Written by T.J. Simon
In late 2000, a Vancouver collective of musical artists including Carl Newman (Zumpano), Dan Bejar (Destroyer), and Neko Case (Neko Case and Her Boyfriends/The Corn Sisters) released a side project titled Mass Romantic under the band name of The New Pornographers. The exuberant joy of that release built a cult following of pop music enthusiasts and received fawning critical praise. The band has reformed for a second outing ó the recently released Electric Version, a generally likable affair focusing mainly on the singing and songwriting of TNP bandleader Carl Newman.
TNPís sound evokes memories of the hoards of one-hit wonder Beatle-wannabes that surfaced in the early years of the British invasion. Itís as if band members want to remind listeners that The Queen still appears on Canadian cash. Songs such as The End of the Medicine and Testament to Youth in Verse blend harmonies, keyboards, and guitars in a joyous cacophony of jangly pop. I couldnít make heads or tails out of the lyrics, but band members never fail to sound like they are having quite a bit of fun. Electric Version has a uniformity of sound unheard on the first album, but Neko Case is again relegated to backing vocals with only a few divine opportunities to drive the bus herself. These moments provide the albumís highlights, particularly on All for Swinging You Around, a delightful number that sounds a tad like The Go-Goís. Fans ought to be wondering why Case doesnít just buckle down and finally release a pop album of her own.
While thereís not a bad number among the discís 13 songs, thereís also nothing that screams out to be put on your next mix CD. TNPís debut album contained a few real duds, which this one thankfully lacks, but it also had some amazing songs such as Letter from an Occupant and The Body Says No ó both of which still regularly appear on my compilations for long car rides. In the end, Electric Version is a cohesive and likable album with the harshest criticism being that most of the tracks sound pretty much alike. Still, itís not bad for a side project. Ĺ
Electric Version is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box