2007 has been the year of the reunion. From the Police to Rage Against the Machine, to Genesis and the Wu Tang Clan, bands are trying to recreate past magic for fans and frankly, one last run at a boat load of cash. One of the lesser-hyped reconciliations of the year, happened when The New Pornographers decided to give it another go. And it might just be the best of the bunch.
The new album Challengers stands out as not only a great reunion, but one of the best albums of 2007. The New Pornographers are made up of some of the most talented Canadian musicians from Vancouver and have the resumes to prove it. Danny Bejar, singer and pianist, also formed indie favorite, Swan Lake. Neko Case gained fame last year with her atl. country album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Even the band’s leader, A.C. Newman, had mild success with a few Canadian indie bands, before heading up the formation of the group. He writes the majority of the band’s melodic, hook-flavored music and plays a smattering of instruments, including bass mandolin.
A.C. Newman notes Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson as influences and both are apparent throughout the album’s song structure. Songs like the conversational “Myriad Harbor” and the politically charged “My Right Versus Yours” ooze with catchy hooks and sophisticated instrumentation. “Unguided” starts with a minamalist echo-backing, as if the narrator is worried about not having control of their own life. To the chorus of march-worth drum kicks and mindful lyrics (“Killing time because I have to/why?/Because it isn’t mine, remember?/Killing time because it wasn’t mine”), they later realize that having a plan doesn’t mean nature will pay attention to it.
One of the best attributes of The New Pornographers, is that they have the ability to intermingle statements and poignant messages with breezy, pop-friendly hooks. If you don’t stop and take a listen to the blasphemous new take on religious figures (“All The Old Showstoppers”) or political observations (“My Right Versus Yours”), you might miss what makes the album poetic.
Challengers should mangage to satisfy indie-hipsters along with occasional pop listeners. Even though their music won’t match the latest receipts from the Police tour, it will make me anxiously await The New Pornographers’ next reunion.
The New Pornographers – My Right Versus Yours
The New Pornographers – Unguided