This review was first
published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005
The New Pornographers
A review of their album 'Twin Cinema'
Snapshot: The latest release from another quality Canadian group
competing for your attention. The New Pornographers serve up a mixture of Big
Star, Wire, Eno and The Flaming Lips. And it does not disappoint.
The Cluas Verdict: 7.5 out of 10.
What is in the Canadian water these days?! Following hard on the heels of the lauded Arcade Fire and Stars, Vancouver's The New Pornographers are a power pop treat. The band form a who's-who of Canadian indie pop talent with Carl Newman at its core while alt-country chanteuse Neko Case adds some glamour and sugary vocals to the mix. Imagine a fervent mixture of Big Star, Wire, Eno and The Flaming Lips (if you can) and you are somewhere close. Listening to Twin Cinema, one can't help but smile.
Electric Version, their previous effort released in 2003, made its way into Rolling Stone's Top 50 of the year and deservedly so. Four part harmonies, a production quality that worked your stereo into a sweat and enough influences on display to have your average muso digging through their collection meant that the CD was never far away from a play. Hence, expectation for Twin Cinema was high. That it doesn't disappoint is down to the consistently high standard of the song writing and the addition of a few new musicians to a band that was already a pretty loose consortium have kept things fresh - Newman's piano playing niece, Kathryn Calder, is a hit especially on "These Are The Fables" with a gorgeous Neko Case vocal.
But it is clearly Newman who is the star. He released a solo album last year, The Slow Wonder, that showcased a darker, hard-edged sound. Twin Cinema is more honeyed (probably Neko Case's influence). Each song delivers its hook, doesn't hang around to outstay its welcome and before you know it, you are humming the next tune. Newman is not interested in lo-fi - in fact this new record reminds me of the advances that The Shins have made in recent times. Acoustic guitars strum, the drums thump along and on "The Bleeding Heart Show", the song beats to a thrilling climax. Even Dan Bejar's previously dodgy contributions seem to integrate better.
There are a few bumpy moments along the way. "Stacked Crooked" is an underwhelming, scattershot closer and "Three or Four" is too choppy by far. But Twin Cinema is still a lovely pop record and one that will hopefully increase the Pornographer's profile this side of the Atlantic.
To buy a new or (very reasonably priced) 2nd hand copy of this album on Amazon just click here.