Monday, October 26, 2015
The New Pornographers crossed the wires and visualized success in the sound of the collective crumbling, shaken by themes of stolen virtue to create ecstatic power pop sensations. The group came together from members of various artists in the Vancouver area: Carl Newman of Zumpano, John Collins of Thee Evaporators, Dan Bejar of Destroyer, and Kurt Dahle of Limblifter, as well as filmmaker Blaine Thurier, and country singer Neko Case.
Newman says: "The New Pornographers sound developed out of fucking around...It's almost embarrassing to be referred to as a supergroup. I mean, none of us are famous... Neko is. But [not] the rest of us. They have the posters with our five pictures and our five names, and you look at it and you go, 'Who the fuck are those guys? I know Neko but... Carl Newman?! Who the fuck is that?'...The band kind of started as an idea, like, 'We should do this! I'll be in it, you'll be in it, Neko will be in it!' That was just before she recorded her first record and nobody really anticipated that she was going to become this big alt-country sensation...It's one of those things where I thought, 'How could we lose?' You could just take some interesting elements and put them together. Even taking myself out of the picture, when I looked at the band I just thought, 'This band's got to be great.' I thought, 'Okay, everyone can hate my songs, they can dismiss them.' But I have the most confidence in Dan [Bejar]'s songs because I'm totally outside of him, looking in. I'm just a fan of him...The first four songs were finished in the spring of '98. They were just sitting around. Friends would hear the songs and go, 'This is really great,' and so it was kind of frustrating in a way. We'd go, 'Yeah, well, we're going to try to record a record.'"
'Mass Romantic' took three years to complete with David Carswell and John Collins co-producing. The sessions featured Dan Bejar on vocals, multi-instruments, korg synthesizer, pipe organ, and wurlitzer; Neko Case on vocals; John Collins on bass, production, and engineering; Kurt Dahle on drums and vocals; Carl Newman on vocals, korg synthesizer, pipe organ, and wurlitzer; Fisher Rose on drums; and Blaine Thurier on keyboards. In the liner notes it reads: "It started off in Carly Neudorf's Miller Block studio, where some of the drum tracks were recorded, and it was finished by our man John Collins at Rodney Graham's place...We tried to make it good...It's hard to remember who played what, it was all a blaze of pipe organ, wurlitzer, mini korg, and what have you...We couldn't figure out who the artist is that did the front cover drawing, in case you're wondering. Carl bought it off John L. from Tacoma for a cool twenty bucks, no questions asked. We use it without permission, and with extreme gratitude to you, mysterious artist. We are sorry."
Case considers: "People mix records to be heard in cars and to have the bass incredibly loud so the vocals have to fight with everything so there's no dynamic left, and that's kind of a bummer... It's a difference in taste, like the New Pornographers and myself have different taste in production as well but it all works out in the end...I've been in that band for as long as I've been in my solo band, and I couldn't imagine not doing it. I love that band, it's like rock 'n' roll Six Flags, like jumpin' on the bed and looking in the mirror with your hairbrush or like singing along with Cheap Trick on the radio. It's that teenage feeling for me...I've tried to do it all in one year before and wanted to check myself into some sort of mental rest facility because you're only human and you can get physically exhausted easily. Being in two full-time rock bands is pretty impossible. I love to tour but I have a dog and I want to see him. And, being a songwriter, you have to have experiences and do things. You can't just go on tour all the time, otherwise you get nothing to write about. It's finally at a point where the balance is perfectly right...The New Pornographers work so hard. I don't know anybody more prolific at songwriting than Carl. They're talking to me about working on a new record already and I'm like, 'You guys are the shit, man!'...With the Pornographers, the songs are written and you go in and you do your part, you don't have to worry about anything. I can look forward to that. But for me having all the responsibility is really tiring sometimes. I love it, but the New Pornographers fill a need to be part of something where I'm not the focus. Dan and Carl's songwriting made me want to be in a band long ago, they've always been a huge influence on me. So the Pornographers and my own band have felt slightly separate only recently to me."
'Mass Romantic' was released on Mint Records; but despite the fact that it didn't chart in Canada or the US, it received accolades from critics.
Newman: "I never even connected the album title with the name until afterwards. We were trying to figure out what the album was going to be called, and someone said, Mass Romantic. And I went, 'Yeah, okay.' And then I went, 'Yeah, romantic, pornography.' I was reading some story about some guy from Calgary who became a porn star, and it was saying how, in porn lingo, when they thought it was really good, they'd say, 'That's good... very romantic.'"
"Letter from an Occupant"
"The Slow Descent into Alcoholism"
All songs written and sung by A.C. Newman except where noted.
"Mass Romantic" (Neko Case and Newman) – 4:11
"The Fake Headlines" – 2:45
"The Slow Descent into Alcoholism" – 3:56
"Mystery Hours" – 3:11
"Jackie" (Dan Bejar and Case) – 2:46
"Letter from an Occupant" (Case) – 3:46
"To Wild Homes" (Bejar, Case, Newman) – 3:33
"The Body Says No" - 3:56
"Execution Day" (Bejar, Newman) – 2:59
"Centre for Holy Wars" – 3:06
"The Mary Martin Show" – 3:19
"Breakin' the Law" (Bejar, Newman) – 3:27
"The End of Medicine"
"When I Was a Baby"