Wednesday, July 14, 2010

album of the day: Twin Cinema

I wandered into New Pornographers somehow a couple years ago, on a spree of bootlegging finding music on teh Interwebs. I was transfixed by a song called "Jackie Dressed in Cobras." There's a driving energy to the verses, and sharp power chords and soaring piano in the bridge, all backing the tingling vocal of Dan Bejar. The chorus is what first caught my ear lyrically.

on a train devouring the land
there's a kid going insane over her man
insane over her man
insane over her

And then the second verse and bridge, which go:

look, we've seen this kind of thing before
four kids hanging from the reference door
and if he hollers let him out
cause he's gonna shout
something in the way she moves
just shouldn't be allowed

left on the jungle floor
Jackie's dressed in cobras
givin me ideas
what I really need now is ideas

I can relate, and I don't even know Jackie.

New Pornographers turns out to be a Canadian Supergroup. I was taken aback by that when I first discovered it. Supergroups tend to rub me the wrong way (with the exception of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young) - they tend to be ego-driven vanity projects badly in need of someone to pull the reins (actually, it could be argued CSNY needed this, but they're just that much better than those other Supergroups). Though certainly capable of some excellent work, I think it holds that most stuff by Supergroups is mediocre, and only captures public attention because of the principals involved - viz. The Traveling Wilburys.

However, New Pornographers are different because (a) hardly anybody knows who they are, (b) hardly anybody knows who the members are, (c) Neko Case. This is a Supergroup in the basic sense of being a group formed by people who are more usually or properly "in" other bands, but since none of them (except, arguably, Case) are prominent on their own or in their other bands, I expect the circumstances of their coming together make the ego-vanity thing a little less important. That is to say, it should, and I think it does.

10 of this album's 14 tracks were written by Carl Newman, who led a band called Zumpano. Three others - my faves, actually - were written by the erstwhile hirsute Dan Bejar of Detroyer. Heard of them? No? Me neither.

The band swap vocal lead duties as the tracks progress in album order, and that's one reason I became more interested in them - I was looking for bands that had male and female singers. Bejar I've mentioned; Newman himself has a smooth, reasonably rich voice that he writes very well for; Neko Case is just sorta wonderful and attention-grabbing, and her voice has what you might call the depth of experience in it. Bejar gives the band some grit, but Case gives them some substance.

I hate to agree again with the All Music Guide review, but this album does sound like a loose but unusually successful jam session, and that's to its credit. The informal feel gives what are basically pop-rock cookies the right kind of tone - not too serious, just, you know, cookies. Cookies are wonderful, but there's something wrong with the idea of serious cookies (though I submit "Serious Cookies" would be a pretty good name for a band).

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