The gathering of several of Canada’s finest musicians to record under the name of the New Pornographers was not expected to last much beyond those studio sessions back in 2000.
However, here we are five years later with the third installment of the band’s catalogue, entitled “Twin Cinema.” What was supposed to be an experiment has instead grown and developed into one of the most beloved bands in the indie-rock world today.
For years, lead Pornographer and singer Carl Newman has been honing his songwriting chops, through two New Pornographers albums, two Zumpano albums and a solo record released under the name A.C. Newman last summer. Put him with the lovely songstress Neko Case and Dan Bejar (better known as the frontman of the band Destroyer) and what you have is a potential hit-making machine.
Bassist Blaine Thurier, drummer Kurt Dahle, guitarist Todd Fancey and multi-instrumentalist John Collins round out the band’s all-star lineup.
The formula for the band’s third LP does not differ much from their previous two efforts: 2000’s “Mass Romantic” and 2003’s “The Electric Version.” Crunchy guitars, various keyboards and other instruments, a solid rhythm section and the wonderful vocal interplay between Newman and Case are the standard once again for the band.
“Twin Cinema,” the album’s opening track, sets the tone very nicely for the entire album, as Fancey and Newman’s guitars swoosh and cut their melodies over Dahle’s drumming, whose work is much improved over the last album. The song’s undeniably catchy lyrics make it almost impossible not to sing along.
Case’s lead vocal duties may be the biggest change the band has undergone in terms of sound. While, on the last album, her songs were amongst the most upbeat of the rockers (for example “All For Swinging You Around”), for this effort, her songs are the slower, more reflective ballads. These include the more acoustic guitar-inflicted “Bones of an Idol” and “These Are Fables.” This could be summed up as a weak point for the record, but it’s the only weak point.
Bejar’s songwriting efforts, which include “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras,” “Broken Breads” and “Streets of Fire” are all a bit out of kilter and less accessible, but are, for the most part, solid tunes, especially the last of the three.
Some of the other album highlights include the rock-stomp “Use It” and the frantic, hook-filled “Star Bodies,” which features some of the best Newman/Case vocal interplay that the band has ever put together.
But what of the perfect pop song? Newman finally hits all of the right buttons on this record and has reached the apex of power-pop with the eighth track on the album, entitled “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” The combination of song-structure, wonderful instrumentation and melodies, and one of the greatest hook-jammed choruses that I have ever heard, work to create the picture perfect pop song.
Three albums into their career, Newman and company have rocked their way to the top of the indie-rock world, achieving increased artistic and commercial success each time around. Heck, this record debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard top 100, a new high for the band. And it’s no wonder, as this will easily be remembered as one of the best records of 2005.