The New Pornographers

I went to see The New Pornographers a couple of years ago at London’s Borderline. I hadn’t really heard many of their tunes, but this Canadian 7/8 piece came highly recommended. I can’t say every one of their hard driving indie pop tunes clicked with me, but I was certainly impressed and puzzled by their style. There was something about the structure of their tunes that was odd and original and very compelling. (Plus, their drummer was mental and who doesn’t like to see that?).

Their fourth album, “Challengers”, is similar – there’s such variety in the way they build songs, and some great riffs dotted throughout, that on my first listen I kinda knew I liked it but at times I was perplexed as to why.

“My Rights Versus Yours” is a brilliant catchy opener that builds from a mellow folky start to flourish into an air-punching, foot stomping tune. This is followed by the equally ace “All the Old Showstoppers” which houses some great hooks and again made me do a little jig when it hit the heights. “All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth” is where they sound closest to fellow Canadians Arcade Fire, but the next two tunes, “Failsafe” and “Unguided”, are battling it out as my favourite on the album.

"Myriad Harbour", is another cracking tune where the singer starts the lines only for the rest of the band, like an annoying girl I once worked with, to finish his thoughts for him. This song also heralds the first of a couple of moments on the album, as the vocals get a bit Tenacious D (he asks his local record store for “an American music anthol-low-geeee” – Jack Black stylee), where I’m not sure if they’re having a laugh or being deadly serious.

Singing duties are, however, swapped around four band members (lady singers Kathryn Calder and Neko Case have - I can exclusively reveal - nice voices) and they pepper songs with some pleasant harmonies. These come through strongest in the splendid “Mutiny, I promise You” and the sparse “Adventures in Solitude”.

The main man of this side project (all band members release records as solo artists or with other bands), A.C. Newman, says “Over the years I’ve just learned how to write better songs”. It certainly seems apparent here as it feels like there’s more depth and diversity than on their previous albums. While it might not be as constantly full on as, say, Electric Version (their 2nd album from 2003) - which some of their fans may not thank them for - I think with repeat listens you’ll reap the rewards of this interesting and enjoyable album.

Bonus Trivia:

- The New Pornographers name, its suggested, was inspired by a quote from American Pentecostal Televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart, who declared that music was, yep, the ‘new pornography’.

- Jimmy Swaggart also hated gays: “'I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm going to be blunt and plain: if one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died.”

- Jimmy Swaggart also publicly exposed one of his buddies for having an affair - claiming his mate was a "cancer in the body of Christ."

- What goes around comes around… Jimmy himself got busted – twice - for sleeping with prostitutes, but was less forthcoming in criticism on this one:  "The Lord told me it's flat none of your business."