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The New Pornographers: Together
The New Pornographers didn’t start out as a cohesive band. Canadian musical veteran Carl Newman brought together some of his friends from Vancouver ’s indie biosphere to record sleek pop songs that ended up in 2000’s Mass Romantic.
The album felt more like a mix-tape bonanza than a well-thought out record. The mix-tape vibe is not a problem when every song is giddier than the next and fighting for your attention; in fact, the erratic quality is what makes it work. Skip ten years ahead, and The New Pornographers are pretty much back to where they started; a band dedicated to the singular idea of crafting pure power pop with all the warmth of a bear hug and the sweetness of honey.
The New Pornographers have no problem with visiting a familiar territory on their latest album, Together, hell, they even set up camp there; and that’s what’s so admirable about them. While most bands will explore a new sound and misfire, the Pornographers are pretty content with their place and deeply grateful for it. But there’s something missing in Together.
The best thing about Together is that like the band, the album is extremely nice and pleasant. Together starts very promising with the ample sounding ’Moves‘, a sum up of the band’s consequent mindset where they proclaim that ’These things get louder‘. Unfortunately things don’t; instead what follows is a series of songs that remind you of a very pleasant day at the park.
In ’Crash Hands‘, singer-songwriter Neko Case shares lead vocals with Dan Bejar and Newman. The rotation adds a layer of variety that compliments the bands gleeful aesthetic. ‘Silver Jenny Dollar,’ about being mesmerised by a girl performing on stage, finds the band at their best. ’A Bite out Of My Bed' exerts the band’s signature marching sound and adds some very melodic overtones for a punch. The album folds with the intimate ’We End up Together,’ where the entire band leads join together to deliver one epic chant that ends the album with a craved bang.
Together is a very enjoyable albeit inconsequential listen. It will stay in rotation for now, but whenever you feel the need for a New Pornographers fix, bypass it altogether in favour of their 2005 power pop classic Twin Cinema.
Just ask Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose or try and listen to any recent Korn album without cringing. Many bands quit (R.E.M., Sonic Youth), others tone down their sound (Metallica) and some keep regurgitating what they’ve been doing for decades (The Rolling Stones).
Kim Thayil’s guitar traditionally wails around on the dissonant side of the spectrum and singer Chris Cornell still deals out high-pitched screeches like a rock version of Celine Dion – but they have audibly matured. And considering that the grunge kids of two decades ago have aged with them, many will appreciate this more grown-up, adult sound.
After 52 minutes, one question remains: now that Soundgarden seems to have arrived at their definitive sound, will they become one of those established bands that don’t evolve anymore? Like fellow Seattle-ites Pearl Jam, or grandfathers of rock Aerosmith, for example. Or will they continue to develop their sound, like Muse or Radiohead?
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.