Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

(Three Imaginary Girls is excited to present a very special GET TOGETHER to have a sneak listen to the brand new NOT YET RELEASED album from the New Pornographers on Friday, April 23 at Neptune Coffee (at 8415 Greenwood Ave N.) from 6p-7:30p. The evening is free.)

The New Pornographers is some velvet gang of not-so-secretly important semi-popular artists, with the elevated sense of giving listeners the most bang for a buck. On new album Together celebrated cult singers and songwriters A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar and Neko Case have listened to all those great records by girl groups, soul bands, Go-Betweens and Triffids and Chills LPs, Dusty Springfield and Teardrop Explodes and ABBA seven inches, that you’ve been meaning to. And they crumble up the ingredients into a happy hash pipe and lights the celebratory safety match, turning the bangs on your forehead crisply burnt.

But the New Pornographers is rarely merely record collector rock. They have something to say about love and faith in your friends. In the most straight-ahead indie statement here, they sing, “What’s love? What turns up in the dark.” No beautiful loser beatification, no melancholic narcissism, it’s all utterly alluring major chords and urgent hope and sharing is the only caring. (Thanks, Ms. Case.)

Though this overplus of value also means more great lyrics than most other bands ever dream of writing, it’s the trading-off performances that pull you in on the first strings-chugging notes of opener “The Moves.” And never let up till (of course) “We End Up Together.” “You’ve got those old eternity blues,” Neko Case sings invincibly on the whistle-sweetened, cello-y Electric Light Orchestra “classical rock”-massaged and bridge-driven “The Crash Years,” the super hot second track and first single from. You’re going to get sick of playing that song. Over and over. Or maybe not.

Madding crowds, ruins, and a Smiths-style “Panic” (“Honey-pie you’re not safe here”), dimly lit wicks of faith in frozen frames when “what you want is an accident.” “The traffic was slow for the crash years,” Case alluringly tears apart her song’s martyr and tosses him into a screaming daymare of slow motion catastrophe. It makes you want to hang the DJ.

But no. Collisions and miracles and emotional mash ups and mad crushes all strike up throughout. But it’s more than fucking. It’s all about healing, touching ravaged flesh after the damage, too. Case’s gorgeous Kali voice fires Together, and A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar give her plenty of souls to dance on. “The splash and jangle of the secret signs” in “My Shepherd” address her “Lord and Shepherd” but is no simple gospel message when French lessons are involved, and the fate of those in rock and roll, and foxes tamed by the Little Prince. (Fire-eyed, “careful kid no one gets hurt. You made me this way.”)

Together is unashamedly nostalgic in sound (all those 70s and 80s dollar vinyls that you get from Value Village can now be replaced with one shiny five inch disc!) and “yet in the future perfect waiting.” Third song “Your Hands Together” comes on like the bong resin-smeared tight jean anthem Wet Hot American Summer needed for its training montage, the kind of progressive rock-empowered pumper kids prowled High School dances for to find the boy or girl who might “blow in their ear.” Dual make and female vocals rave on the power chord bursts and flow into the Cheap Trick, Blondie-era buzz and tribal beat leading it out, and “you’re all mine.”

Then whoah! Suddenly it’s crisp mid-tempo Saturday afternoon Brit-rock, Kinks-y and a little VU, on “Silver Jenny Dollar” and it’s imminent sun-stroked pile of chorus, “It’s true, I love ya.” Could have been on Loaded if that band wasn’t driven by more dark forces. And Bejar brings the psychodrama on “Vakyrie And The Roller Disco” after the scraping of some kind of strings and tappings of others (“Bounce off the walls, Valentine, come on be the one, do your worst”) before the sizzling soul-pop takes over again (this is really an album of startling moves) and everything goes calliope once more. Clove butts floating in wine and glitter-pools in cold bathrooms of dorm rooms of lovers who really love you. There are some shrewd lines, but not a single caustic image here. The New Pornographers really adore the characters they sing about, even if they’re out of time, or falling down, scattering in from some post-hippie pub rock opera or posh lounge of regret.

Supposedly, in the “How” section of the one sheet that comes with the pre-release, this album has “the true story of a woman that returned to her husband decades after he disfigured her with acid.” Produced by the New Pornographers and Phil Palazzolo make all the awesome power pop playing out of Kathryn Calder (vocals, keyboard, piano), John Collins (bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards), Kurt Dahle (drums, percussion, vocals), Todd Fancey (guitar), Blaine Thurier (keyboards), and and many guests, most notable great work from the Dap-Kings on the Lewis Furey-meets-D. Springfield “Daughters of Sorrow” (cascading, swooning, starlight-mooning zenith of album). Together about as far from insular, cold, anemic indie pop that you get. You can almost hear Ted Leo crying that he wasn’t able to at least contribute a ska-punk stuttering guitar solo. And Freddie Mercury smiling in heaven at the sound of “Mama mama!” in the cello-swirling chorus of closing anthem “We End Up Together.”

This is an essential 2010 purchase.