The New Pornographers / Challengers review

By on Sunday, 26th August 2007 at 8:44 pm

New Pornographers - ChallengersWhen a band has a slow burner hit such as the New Pornographer‘s Twin Cinema or The National’s Alligator, their follow-up effort has an incredible burden of expectation placed upon them. Sometimes they manage it (see The National’s Boxer – Alligator’s equal if not better), and other times they just miss the mark, as is the case with “Challengers“.

Challengers is their fourth album and all expectations were pointing towards it being another indie-pop classic such as Twin Cinema, having the fun, slightly chaotic vibe that made them so many fans. However, Challengers has much more of a “morning after the chaotic party” vibe. Many of the songs suffer from too much production, taking away any sort of feeling or atmosphere, and as I mentioned earlier this year it sounds too much like AC Newman’s project instead of the Canadian Super-Group they were way back. The energy gone, the collection is like a Canadian version of a Feeder album – all consistently good tracks, just all a bit samey and nothing new or innovative, which is a shame given their debut Mass Electric, and their third album, Twin Cinema.

When they break into “All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth” early into the album I couldn’t help but feel that things were going to go on an up, however how wrong I was when 2 minutes in you realise it’s just repetitive, lacking in any of the power-pop juice songs like The Bleeding Heart Show had.

As the album progresses things get better, with an air of managing to master the pomp and circumstance of an end-of-film soundtrack, rather than soundtracking the party. “Adventures in Solitude” is a slow builder that manages to capture a snippet of the magic Twin Cinema once managed. Followed by album closer “The Spirit of Giving In” the pair provide the standout tracks to the album. A campfire sing-along, it manages to capture a tiny bit of their old magic.

Perhaps this lacklustre album is partly down to the lack of Neko Case and Dan Bejar playing the large roles that they used to in the band, or perhaps it’s just a running out of energy as the band members focus more on side projects. Either way, it’s an okay collection, but by no means a match for Twin Cinema.

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