Jason Zumpano's first solo album,
Sparrow (Overcoat, 2003), is devoted to
orchestral pop in the vein of Abba and XTC.
The Early Years (2005) was
also rather undistinguished.
Zumpano then returned to orchestral pop with a new project,
The Cyrillic Typewriter (Jaz, 2011), while the instrumental vignettes
of Room And Mansion (Inflight, 2010) were a bit more experimental.
Showing off his arranging skill, Carl Newman's solo album
The Slow Wonder (Matador, 2004), credited to A.C. Newman,
is as refined as any of the New Pornographers albums
(The Battle For Straight Time, with a powerful guitar riff reinforced
by a flute, On the Table).
The only problem
is that there is precious little to say in the realm of this kind of synthetic
pop muzak for one who has already surveyed the entire genre on two
New Pornographers albums.
All these echoes of the Mersey-beat and of XTC can get quite tedious
if you can't find something new to add to the basic canon.
Alas, the rocking Miracle Drug and the psychedelic litany
i.e. the non-pop songs, don't quite stand up on their own.
The loud and driving
The Town Halo (propelled by a piano boogie figure and a dancing cello
figure) does succeed in transcending the pop model,
and ranks among his most energetic songs.
The New Pornographers' Twin Cinema (Matador, 2005), featuring new
vocalist and keyboardist
is another impeccable pop collection. Whether it's catchy tunes that evoke the Sixties
(Twin Cinema, similar to the hard-rocking ditties of the
Stacked Crooked with Beach Boys-esque harmonies
and a Syd Barrett-ian space refrain)
or a new degree of ballad sophistication that redefines the
2000s as a less gloomy age than it was
(The Bleeding Heart Show, a continuously morphing song,
Falling Through Your Clothes, that invests in ethereal repetition
sounding like a mantra),
Newman and cohorts compose and perform like machines programmed for maximum pop efficiency.
Sheer melodic virtuosity continues to be their quintessential quality.
Alas, some of album's songs sound like filler to justify an album for the
three/four that really stand out.
Challengers (2007) is a rather tedious experience, devoid of the elegant
exuberance of the first two albums. One has to admire the degree of artifice
that the band injects into the march-like
All The Old Showstoppers and the swirling
All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth,
which make Brian Wilson look like an
amateur, but the album leaves little behind beyond cold admiration.
The ballad The Spirit Of Giving benefits from a charming instrumental
break with trombone, accordion and harp, and from the choral coda,
the whole vaguely reminiscent of 1970s glam-rock, e.g.
Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes.
Vancouver's Thee Evaporators, formed by members of New Pornographers (bassist John Collins), Smugglers (guitarist David Carswell) and Slow, released
United Empire Loyalists (1996),
I Gotta Rash (1998),
Ripple Rock (Alternative Tentacles, 2004) and
Gassy Jack And Other Tales (Nardwuar, 2007) in a garage-rock vein.
Carl Newman's second solo album Get Guilty (Matador, 2009) was more
pensive than soulful. It is terribly difficult to create something
original or hummable that hasn't been done yet in the realm of pop ditties,
and most of these songs are neither catchy nor intelligent.
A handful are decent additions to his canon:
The Palace at 4 AM,
Like a Hitman Like a Dancer,
The Heartbreak Rides and Submarines of Stockholm.
These are refrains for people who haven't listened to too much music,
or for people who like to hear background music that recycles stereotypes
of their youth.
While Carl Newman and Dan Bejar still get the lion's share of the songwriting
on the New Pornographers' fifth album Together (Matador, 2010), the
voices of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder get more room and freedom at the same
time that the orchestration moves centerstage.
The voices and the arrangements are the good news, the songwriting is the bad news.
Strip away the makeup and The Crash Years is just loud country-pop,
Your Hands Together is just old-fashioned hard-rock,
and the rest is mostly the usual exercise in Sixties revival
(the waltz-like Daughters of Sorrow, the march-like Moves).
Their sixth album,
Brill Bruisers (Matador, 2014), used the same formula: a lot of
facile filler around two really good tunes:
Brill Bruisers, basically a slower and symphonic version of the Mamas & Papas' Go Where You Wanna Go,
the feverish power-pop of Dancehall Domine.
Other songs are interesting only insofar as one spends a few seconds trying
to find out "where did i hear this before?"
Fantasy Fools has something of
Fleetwood Mac's Second Hand News, and
There is no sophisticated songwriting, except maybe when
Case's sweet naive romantic elegy is laid over galloping guitars and synth in
Champions of Red Wine.
The disco beat of War On The East Coast probably signals a new career
for the band in the age of synth-pop revivals.
Electronic arrangements embellish
Whiteout Conditions (Concord, 2017), which is also the first album with
new drummer Joe Seiders and without Bejar.
It is mostly a throw-back to the 1980s
(Whiteout Conditions has echoes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Enola Gay)
(and sometimes even futher back to Abba, like
in This is the World of the Theater),
to a music scene flooded by languid melodies and throbbing synths.
If High Ticket Attractions is more typical power-pop,
Avalanche Alley is purely electronic elegy with country-psychedelic vocal harmonies We’ve Been Here Before.
The New Pornographers's In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (Concord, 2019)
is a less electronic album, but shows even more of a decline of inspiration.
It's a mess of tentative songs that rarely amount to anything of substance.
Dreamlike and on the Rush has echoes of Tommy Roe and The Surprise Knock oscillates between the
Kinks and the
Monkees. Way too little to justify an album.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
Se sei interessato a tradurre questo testo, contattami