The New Pornographers - Challengers
Yes you have made it to day five of this “something new I’ve been listening to a day” theme week! And today’s topic is: The New Pornographers. I came across this band when I was first discovering the wonderful world of indie (which is in itself an impossible word to define, but worth discussing in a future post perhaps). I don’t remember exactly how I found out about them, but I do know the song that immediately had me hooked was Mass Romantic, the title track from their first album. It was all snap crackle and pop, like nothing else I was listening to at the time! I found it completely addictive, with Neko Case‘s vocals as the cherry on the cake.

For those not in the know about this band, which every teenager should have in their collection just to piss off their parents for having found a harmless way to sneak pornography into their room, do a quick scan of their wikipedia here. In short they’re an ‘indie supergroup’ from Vancouver, although they hate that title. It sticks to them because many of the (many) members have an interesting track record with other bands or solo, besides their contributions to the Pornographers. Some actually don’t usually tour with the band, such as Case, but just contribute to the records.

Watch another great song from Mass Romantic: Letter From An Occupant, also featuring Neko Case and some of the best whohohoooo’s ever in a song

Well, Mass Romantic was three albums and seven years ago. The New Pornographers have just released their fourth: Challengers [August 2007]. I like their previous two albums (Electric Version and Twin Cinema) a lot, but neither of them gave me quite the same buzz as Mass Romantic. As I pressed play last week, I was hoping to be blown away in a fury of power pop with this one too. But you can probably feel it coming… I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, Challengers is definitely crammed full of more exquisite indiepop perfection. After the first few listens a few tracks stand out to me. All Of The Things That Go To Make Heaven and Earth (hmmm a tad pretentious for a song title?) is probably the closest thing to my Mass Romantic nostalgia. The piano being attacked with a vengeance and the characteristic joint vocals: all is well. Mutiny, I Promise You is another great up tempo song, but that’s about it. Opener My Rights, Versus Yours keeps teasing you, letting on there might be a frenetic high coming, but it just ambles on. I realise the slower, more ballad like songs on the album are really top quality too, but that’s just not what I turn to the Pornographers for. I listen to more than my fair share of self conscious singer songwriter types to satisfy that need.

My Rights, Versus Yours on David Letterman

(You can also download this song from the band’s website)

So on the whole, the down tempo songs seem to have taken over from the fizzy head bopping fast ones, and I for one am sad to see them go… BUT, if you’ve never heard The New Pornographers, please don’t let this somewhat disillusioned post discourage you. They’re great! They’re amazing! Pick up Mass Romantic or any of their albums and let me know what you think.

If it’s your cup of tea you’re in luck: they’re coming this way soon (end of November) to perform at Crossing Border!

Edit: I just found
this blog post on The Glorious Hum that does a great job of putting into words a lot of the doubts I have about this album too (thanks!). And also a quote from an interview with Carl Newman which explains a lot about the departure from the ‘snap crackle and pop’ sound.