Archive for the ‘the new pornographers’ Category

The New Pornographers – Challenges (2007)

October 11, 2007

I feel I need to begin this review with an apology for the New Pornographers’ name, which is intentionally provocative. But by apology I mean a reasoned defense, not a spineless acquiescence to a foolish sense of shame someone might try to impart for listening to a band with such a name. Their name does not refer to some passion for sexually explicit materials; rather, it is a reference to a quote by televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who once declared that “rock and roll is the new pornography.”

It is tempting to assume that a band with such a name, rooted in a inflammatory statement by pop-religion would be a group of people with a chip on their shoulders, with something to prove. This is not necessarily the case. This so-called Canadian supergroup consisting of songwriter Carl Newman, Dan Bejar of Destroyer and alt-country chanteuse Neko Case–as well as a slew of others–create light power-pop songs that steer clear of anger and angst. Their music is engaging and dynamic, forging a fine line between pop, rock and alt-country.

If Carl Newman and friends have an agenda, it is hidden behind a wall of nigh-inscrutable lyricism. Even songs with titles that smack of overt politicality playfully dodge such categorization. The song “My Rights Versus Yours,” might be making incisive commentary, but with lyrics like “Fingers in paints / in paints we brought, thinking we’d leave them when we’re not flying the flags of new empires in rags, the new empire in rags, the truth in one free afternoon,” it is unlikely the comment will become clear to anyone but the songwriter.

Freeing the songs from such baggage allows them to be enjoyed more simply, as fun, musically interesting pop constructions that say something more than “I want inside your pants” without getting too weighty.

-Nate Campbell

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