October 10, 2004

"THE SLOW WONDER" // review


Carl Newman becomes A.C., and wrings the glorious, shaggy mop, that is The New Pornographers, nearly dry. Or, to put it another way—“He rolls up the windows, pumping the 'A.C.' until the air is so dry and sterile, you reach for the Chapstick.” Quite a change from The New Pornographers ‘windows down, freeway-blasting’ air that almost starts your ears a flappin'. That has you shoving your arms and head out the window, looking like the world's ugliest dog, or a 60’s Russian cosmonaut taking 3 G’s.

Carl had, oh, so, many of us panting for "The Slow Wonder", and yes, I was in that group—a group that then broke into opposing camps. As can happen after the drinks are poured, the meal served, the food savoured, or slipped under the table for Rex.

After having been tempted by a couple of juicy cherries thrown the public’s way by Newman’s US label, Matador Records, "Miracle Drug" and "Drink To Me, Babe, Then" (which I greedily sated myself with), the arrival of the album was highly anticipated. Now, these songs in particular continue to satisfy, although they have been diminished in my ears since hearing them as part of the whole, as part of the album, "The Slow Wonder".

Don’t get me wrong, there are more than a few standout tracks on the disc, but, and it's a big but, something seems missing. And this is what it is… Dan Bejar, Neko Case, Kurt Dahle, Todd Fancey, John Collins, Blaine Thurier… the rest of The New Pornographers. The dirt, the grime, the potent virus that breeds when they come together, has been washed away. As a solo act, Mr. Newman has lost a restless, twitching muscle – let's call it his jiggy leg - now, he's left with his pop smarts, his dry intellect. These songs have been dry cleaned and pressed by Newman's impressive, dry, clean mind. Yes, he has given us some fine hooks on this, his solo debut, it's just that I could use a little more grit, a little more mess... one that comes from being in a 'band'.

drink to me babe, then
miracle drug

a.c. newman website
matador records site

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