The New Pornographers returned in 2014 after a far too long absence to bring us another masterfully crafted album of power pop. The Canadian supergroup’s Brill Bruisers sounds like a long-lost ELO record and is a fine piece of work desperately needed in this world of pop divas, TV show idols, bro’ rock, country-rap, and booty call music.
The opener (and title track) starts with blaring guitars, powerful drums, vocals that swirl with great melodies, and a touch of psychedelic synths. Vocalist / guitarist A.C. Newman and his crew seem to channel the stadium-filling power of early ELO records on it. “Champions of Red Wine” doesn’t refer to my wife and one of her best friends, but is rather a fun song from outer space (judging by the poppy space lounge keyboards) sung by the always mesmerizing Neko Case. The band knocks this one out of the park.
“Fantasy Fools” will have you jumping and dancing, as it’s nothing but joyful. The keyboards on it are the hidden key to the song’s power. Those same keyboards are front and center during “War on the East Coast,” in which Dan Bejar worries more about potentially botching a relationship than about world chaos and bad news. “Backstairs” brings back the ELO influence and is big, booming, and wonderful. I can’t wait to hear this one live. It swirls into mind trip material and is all the better for it. “Marching Orders” is peppy with happy keyboards and Neko Case’s happy vocals. You can visualize her dancing in the recording booth as she sings. I love the way “Born with a Sound” dabbles in electro. The New Pornographers have the luxury of being able to do whatever the hell they want, so an electro-rock cut doesn’t jar the flow of the album at all (and Kathryn Calder’s backing vocals on it are excellent).
If you’re worried the New Pornographers are turning into an electro band, have no fear. “Dancehall Domine” sounds like something off The Electric Version with its big guitars, great Newman and Case vocal trades, and straight-up rock drums, and “Spidyr” sounds like it could’ve been a track from Mass Romantic. “Hi-Rise” and the closer, “You Tell Me Where,” dive back into the synth-heavy sounds, but it all works. “You Tell Me Where” is a nice grand finale and I’m sure is a big set-ender at their live shows.
We needed this record. It’s refreshing and lovely – the best kind of porn, really.
Keep your mind open.
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