Listening

What Happened to the New Pornographers?

I haven’t even fin­ished lis­ten­ing to the first song on the New Pornog­ra­phers’ lat­est album, Togeth­er, and I’m bored. This is a band that once inspired me to do that least cool of things — join the band onstage to dance — way back in 2001 at the Music Hall of Williams­burg. Man, that was fun. Has it already been five years since they played a pre­view of Twin Cin­e­ma at the Chameleon Club in Lan­cast­er, PA? It has, hasn’t it?

It sounds like a snide, elit­ist thing to say, but the New Pornog­ra­phers weren’t built to last. They were that rarest of ani­mals: a super­group not only didn’t suck, but actu­al­ly pro­duced two clas­sic albums and a pass­able third before becom­ing adult con­tem­po­rary clap­trap.

You see, it would’ve been won­der­ful if they nev­er real­ly formed a band as such, just pro­duced Mass Roman­tic, toured, and then went their sep­a­rate ways. Sure, Elec­tric Ver­sion is a spec­tac­u­lar album and I wouldn’t want to for­get how fan­tas­tic it was to see them play those songs, too, but it’s just that it’s hard to look back on those albums and see them in the same light as they were made. Togeth­er, and it’s pre­de­ces­sor, Chal­lengers, are shock­ing­ly bor­ing mid-tem­po affairs that make you won­der how the New Pornog­ra­phers ever packed so many hooks into “To Wild Homes.”

The pace of their career makes me think they released those great albums, split briefly, and then reunit­ed to pro­duce two more lack­lus­ter albums, only to dis­ap­pear into obscu­ri­ty. Maybe it’s for the best. That way future gen­er­a­tions might dis­cov­er the unbri­dled joy when they first hear Neko Case wail on “Let­ter From an Occu­pant.”

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