New Pornographers – Together

January 01, 1970

(Matador)

 

www.matador.records

 

A.C. Newman’s supergroup – which also includes songwriters
Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar –returns with another set of uber-literate
pop songs for the indie cognoscenti, this time turning to a more orchestral
approach. Embellishing these pop ditties with baroque layers of strings in a
manner befitting Electric Light Orchestra, Together aims to connect the band back to a more innocent era of rock music, at least
from a sonic standpoint. The themes and lyrics, however, are those of a rock
band made up of wizened adults who’ve come of age in post-modern times, which
keeps the record from devolving into a simple exercise in nostalgia. 

 

Newman’s disc-opener “Moves,” for instance, is nominally
about George Harrison’s “You,” and
is built around simple piano chords pounded out with staccato fervor, and
mirrored in percussive “la-la-la” harmonies and bowed cello strokes made to
sound like barre chords. But it’s quite unlikely the quiet Beatle would answer
the lyric query “What’s love?” with the response: “What turns up in the dark.”
Similarly, Bejar’s catchy “Silver Jenny Dollar” sounds like the Hollies might
if they’d been capable of the cynical refrain — “in a world that’s beaten
everything black and blue” – that anchors the chorus. Case, too, has always had
the jaded eye of the disappointed romantic, and on the hand-clap pop of the
deliciously cynical “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” she sings of love’s “byzantine” pas de deux as more of a “mistake on the
part of nature” where “things that don’t match meet.” Musically, Case’s growth
in recent years into one of our most compelling songwriters lifts her entries –
especially the luminous “Crash Years” and “My Shepherd,” which sounds like
something taken from her Middle Cyclone – above those of Bejar and Newman.

 

But while it’s nice to hear the band extend their reach into
yet another direction here, the orchestral arrangements show a surprisingly
lack of imagination and quickly read rote, especially the staccato attack of
the cellos which adorn almost every track. To apply virtually the same
arrangement everywhere diminishes the joy one takes away from hearing three
such distinct songwriting voices meshed together.

 

Standout Tracks: “Silver
Jenny Dollar” “Crash Years” “My Shepherd” JOHN SCHACHT

 

 

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