Thursday, August 09, 2007

When Someone Great Is Gone: The New Pornographers "Challengers"

There's a lot to be said about The New Pornographer's respective catalogue as it stands today. Under their belt, they have three solid, pure pop works of uneven but equally ambitious...vigor. With a seemingly continuous and unquestionable unified front, their tight compositions of harmless yet meaningful fluff contradicts the very nature of their implied, pretentiously indie roots. For lack of a better explanation, The New Pornos forget themselves on purpose. Because of this fact, you remember them for much longer than you might expect to. Challengers, their latest LP finds them slightly forgetting a formula that gave them much credibility in the past: the art of never lingering. On most of their previous works The New Pornographers operate similarly to an old school punk band: they come in, get the job done and get the fuck out. Excess is not something that they have ever cared to understand. This operation allowed them to create many pop gems short in length but endless in spirit and staying power. This is not to say that the tracks on Challengers are exceptionally long; it's more of a largeness in the production that the group never seems to reconcile with completely. It all seems dubious and out of place. Their shoes simply seem too big here, and they lose their footing far more often than they should. If things aren't over-complicated on Challengers, they are simply drawn out and/or boring. Newman and Case are certainly two of the most earnest and genuine personalities one could have the pleasure of listening to, but Challengers finds their talents drowning in lukewarm histrionics. I want to say that The New Pornographers are better than Challengers, but the sad truth may be that The New Pornographers have finally arrived at mediocrity.


David Sims said...

You are so wrong about this, it's almost funny.

But I'm not worried. You'll turn around. If anything, this album is LESS languorous than Twin Cinema?

Daniel said...

I dunno. I'm so let down, I'm almost upset. I'll concede that I could have RUSHED to judgment, but this is subpar stuff, I've no doubt. I'll give it several more spins though.

Daniel said...


I like Twin Cinema a lot more than most people. At the time, it was probably the least of all of their works but it got a pretty bad wrap. I like it's lazy qualities, be they intentional or not. It's such a consistent album above everything else. Very quietly, all the elements were made more rich and lush. A few missteps aside, it was an interesting album, at the least. "Challengers" seems to downplay the melodic power pop element to a certain degree, and it's just really weird. I can just see people calling this a more mature album and evidence of them growing, but I just see them losing their way.

David Sims said...

I just...cannot agree with you. At all. It's probably their best album, IMO. It's a more definitive progression--Electric Version was basically just a step sideways, and Twin Cinema (which I love) felt like they were sort of playing around with where to go next, but hadn't quite figured it out yet.

This album is like, an actual ALBUM. Start to finish, it's absolute gold, IMO. And I you're the first person I know who's disagreed with me!

Daniel said...

Well, I've heard NOTHING but great things about it. I just can't go along. I find it plodding, and...just bloated. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't call it HORRIBLE. I still think that they are a good band, and a good portion of this is perfectly listenable; but... I dunno...I guess I missed the boat here. I see nothing that translates into greatness.

I hope you still love me though. <3

David Sims said...

Just give it more listens. I promise.

And duh, I still love you.