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The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers (2014) review


The New Pornographers "Brill Bruisers" (Matador, 2014)

I think the hardest albums to review are the ones that you don’t really have any huge complaints about, but that don’t dazzle you. This is where I am in attempting to write about this sixth long player from Canadian power poppers The New Pornographers. I caught on to the band around the time of their sophomore effort, 2003’s Electric Version. Wowed by their ridiculously catchy hooks and inventive songwriting, not to mention the occasional lead singing of Neko Case, I wore that record out, as I did with their 2000 debut Mass Romantic. My appreciation of the band’s work hit its peak with their release of 2005’s Twin Cinema. Head tunesmith Carl Newman was simply on his own songwriting planet at the time of that album. It’s a brilliant record. For me, the next two of the band’s albums fell comparatively flat. With 2007’s Challengers and 2010’s Together, they seemed at times to be reaching for a more layered, dense, complex approach, the hooks not as clear, the feel a bit deeper. I’m all for bands reaching for new places with their stuff, but for my tastes the songs on those two just didn’t hit home.

Brill Bruisers, for me, is somewhere between the brilliance of the act’s first trio of albums and the muddied-ness of the last two. The songs are there, at least in some instances. Case sounds sharp as ever in tackling fare such as the clever and catchy “Champions of Red Wine.” There’s a handful of other tracks on the record that are effective in that way. Yet none of them affect me in the way pop monsters like “Letter From an Occupant,” “From Blown Speakers,” “Sing Me Spanish Techno” from their earlier albums did, though. None give me the feeling those did: that giddy reaction where you can’t help yourself but play the song over and over and sing it in the shower and tell your power pop-loving friends they need to stop what they’re doing right now and listen to it. There’s another half of the songs on Brill Bruisers that I feel don’t work at all. So my final summation on this one is: some good power pop, some forgettable fare, and in the end a good album by a band that has done and can do much better.

Review made by Brian Greene/2014
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