Continue as a Guest Review
The New Pornographers
Finding your place or falling out of your place in the cultural conversation is something that many artists grapple with. What happens when once you were so firmly swirling in the zeitgeist of popular culture and then, as it happens, time and the zeitgeist eventually moves along. Not that Canada’s coolest supergroup, The New Pornographers, haven’t been on a steady track of producing countless adored albums since their debut but it hasn’t gone without notice that their debut album is 23 years old. With their new album Continue as a Guest, Carl Newman and company have tackled these existential thoughts head on. “The idea of continuing as a guest felt very apropos to the times,” Newman explains. “Feeling out of place in culture, in society—not feeling like a part of any zeitgeist, but happy to be separate and living your simple life, your long fade-out. Find your own little nowhere, find some space to fall apart, continue as a guest.” At the end of the day, Newman and the rest of the Pornographers, including Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Todd Fancey, and Joe Seiders, shouldn’t worry too much. The new album absolutely bristles with a freshness not many bands two decades into their career are able to achieve. While the songs they craft these days may not have the immediacy or, as Rolling Stone magazine once put it, “…songs where the hooks-per-minute ratio is almost unseemly.” It all feels like that doesn’t matter anymore. Their music remains effervescent, interesting and carries itself with the kind of swagger that only true experience can bring.
The album kicks off with its first single “Really Really Light”. The track was left on the cutting room floor from the sessions for the band’s 2014 release Brill Bruisers. Newman took the chorus that sometime collaborator Dan Bejar wrote and refashioned a new track around it. The thing about this information that is only relevant is the fact that there is nothing about this song that feels like it was made from scraps. In fact, it sets the pace perfectly for the rest of the album. There is a lightness here, no pun intended, that belies the frenetic nature of the musicianship. The drums bounce and crash, the guitars and bass drive and a synth bubbles throughout, rearing its head only in between the spaces when the rest of the piece decides to catch a breath. It all feels effortless in the best possible way. “Last and Beautiful” is the most the album gets as a departure from the rest of its material. Reminiscent of a long lost Blur single with its languid guitar and a strutting groove. It isn’t until the chorus kicks in with Newman and Calder singing, “I don’t wanna go by myselfCome with me” that you get what Rolling Stone magazine was going on about. “Firework in the Falling Snow” is all golden synth goodness. The production on the record by Newman is pretty outstanding all round and it is with this track that his studio prowess truly stands out.
Yes, it has been 23 years since their debut. Yes, they may not be the band that is always embroiled in the most current of cultural conversations but with Continue as a Guest The New Pornographers show why they are still relevant while asking if they are actually still relevant. It’s an interesting tightrope they walk here and it all pays off in every way. Nine albums in and the band is still writing and producing elegant and captivating music. It seems like they have found their sweet spot, living their simple lives, happy to be separate, continuing as guests.
Pre-order Continue as a Guest by The New Pornographers HERE
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