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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Whiteout Conditions

The New Pornographers, a kind of collective that has a been a side act for many artists, have released their seventh album, Whiteout Conditions, and it contains some very good power pop, which is their strength. But I wonder if I would be all that interested if it weren't that Neko Case is one of the vocalists.

The songs are all written by A.C. Newman, and in an annoying trend, there is no lyric sheet, so I had to go online to find them (I wouldn't mind at least a link to the band's Web site to see them). I mean, if you're going to write a lyric with an internal rhyme like: "Just like the Mayans took all their science/And dumped it all in the drink and went silent" you might want people to actually know what you're singing.

What this album reminds me of are the days when their used to be a thing called "college rock" (not sure it exists anymore, rock seems to have been blurred and trivialized into only a few genres--alternative and metal), with driving melodies, nice beats, and smart, undergraduate lyrics. The songs that lyric above comes from is one of the better ones, "High Ticket Attractions" (the video shows high school students destroying a science lab). I very much enjoyed "Colosseums," which speaks of "Colosseums of the mind," and though I don't know precisely what that means, it's a vivid image. I also liked "This Is the World of the Theater" even though the lyric doesn't make any sense, I like the concept.

My favorite track is the one that puts Case's voice to best use, "We've Been Here Before." I think they use multiple tracks of her voice harmonizing with herself, but I'm not sure. They also employ an echo effect, and since Case sings very loud it has an unearthly sound to it, as if the heavens had opened.

The New Pornographers have not matched their best album, which was their first, Mass Romantic, but Whiteout Conditions is considerably better than Twin Cinema. For fans of the band and for Case, it's worth a pick-up.

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