Everything's different now. The Pornographers have their own
label, Collected Works, Dan Bejar is off doing his own thing, and their new
sound, starting with 2014’s Brill Bruisers and now going off in many other
directions, is unlike anything they’ve ever done. It’s also the best album
they’ve made yet, better even than Mass Romantic.
Carl Newman has been saying “Krautrock bubblegum” in interviews to
describe this new sound, and while I’ll take his word for it, I also hear the
best updating of the late Scott Miller ever, as all of these songs could have
come from Scott’s band Game Theory, especially 1984’s Real Nighttime. TNP had
already paid tribute to Scott with You Take Me Where on Brill Bruisers. Here
they double down on that.
The melodies are to die for. I love
the synths, aided and abetted by Todd Fancy’s understated guitar, and not as
understated new drummer Joe Seiders. Neko Case has never sounded
better. Ditto for Kathryn Calder, touring member Simi Sernaker, and Seiders.
Carl sounds great too. All join together for great harmonies, and check out
Neko’s and Carl’s duet on the shimmering We’ve been Here Before.
Carl’s lyrics are so open-ended that
beyond High Ticket Attractions being about Trump-induced panic, written before
the election, and the title song being about depression, they’re anything you
want them to be about. My take on them: music therapy for terrific and strange
situations, wild and wonderful relationships. Between the great lyrics,
fantastic new sound, and yes, maybe Dan will be back someday, as I say, this is
their best yet. May it continue.