The New Pornographers

Brill Bruisers


Aug 22, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It can't be easy for a band like The New Pornographers. Where prog-rock musicians need to create new vistas and compositions to describe them, and comedians need to be funny, when it comes to pop-rock bands there's always the thought that every great musical hook has already been bent and thrown into the sea.

Fortunately for this group, it's never been strictly about coming up with the year's catchiest five seconds, though they do have a gift for that. Calling their album Brill Bruisers makes for a sassy call to arms, and even if there's nothing here that Goffin and King might have concocted in that hallowed pop factory, one can imagine them nodding approvingly while listening from their piano bench.

The title track makes for an ideal opener, with the band coming on like a pop orchestra around Newman's voice and a grabby backup-vocal hook. The album, and especially this song, displays the band's most expansive sound yet; it's downright colossal at times, even metal-big, but the Pornographers make memorable use of the space rather than using it as a bludgeon.

Some of this band's strengths come through details other than a song's melodic turn. With "Fantasy Fools," one of the album's strongest tracks and an example of The New Pornographers' particular pop power, multiple voices lock together in upbeat passages for the nicest possible equivalent of gang unity.

At times the lyrics sound like meditations on the band itself, as with "Marching Orders," where Neko Case sings, "They say we can't make this stuff up/But what else could we make?" If that sounds like self-ascribed faint praise, Brill Bruisers is hardly an exercise in wavering self-belief; rather, it's as accomplished and engaging as anything they've done. And any band who can charm a listener simply by running out their album's clock repeating a plea of "You tell me where to be, I'll be there" will probably get their meeting. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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