Matador Records Limited
The New Pornographers – one of those bands (a “super-group” arguably) that you can depend on, I check in and out, I haven’t listened to every single album they’ve released but I still have fond memories of discovering this band’s music – feel-good, friendly, happy power-pop, but it doesn’t ever feel slight, inconsequential.
Here they’ve almost had a Sufjan Stevens-like makeover, well, the album cover looks like something he might wear…anyway…this is most definitely upbeat and record collection-referencing, two crucial tenets of power-pop as I understand it.
There’s a bit of ELO to the wonderful Backstairs, the opening title track announces the musical themes and moods – a cleverly crafted version of 80s pop bombast. Actually, it’s a different sound – but maybe a similar ideology/approach to this year’s War on Drugs album, the remaking/re-imagining of pop’s recent/ish past but recast to somehow sound thoroughly contemporary.
Where AC Newman and Neko Case have recently made rather startling solo albums – borne of personal anguish, heartbreak – here we have the Pornographer in unison, that healing power of music making the means for celebration and being the means of celebration.
Champions of Red Wine might be what you’d hoped for with Chrissie Hynde’s solo debut – nothing as good as this song on that Pretender’s record, but what a lovely, charming hook, a lovely shimmer to it.
Fantasy Fools has some of Grizzly Bear’s ideas around vocal arrangement but it’s married up to a post-Grandaddy feel, as if The Sophtware Slump was stripped only of what made it weird but never what made it wonderful.
As much as Brill Bruisers references the 1980s – a spikiness to War On The East Coast, a loping swirl to Marching Orders, the John Waite-like Wide Eyes – there’s never the feeling that this album’s tunes were created under duress, as slaves to the rhythms still haunting the ears of these songwriters from their teen years. It’s more a case of placing those ideas in a contemporary setting, as with War on Drugs you hear the music and have some feelings of nostalgia for songs you’re hearing first time around. Spidyr feeling like something Tom Gray or Dexys might have made, but sounding fresh and exciting today at the same time. Hi-Rise with those little swirls and bubbles but no overt cuteness to trivialise, the closing You Tell Me Where a final reminder that from retro influences this band has arrived at a determinedly futurist sound. It’s still power-pop dear, though not as we’ve always known it, yet somehow just like we always want it.