“The New Pornographers: The Most Ripped-Off Band in the World”

There is, after all, a way of knowing this. Because so many demises befall so many bands out there, due, probably only in part, to internet piracy.

One solution to the problem is to break up, the way the late great Oxford Collapse did in 2009, following their blistering power pop masterpiece Bits. I got a chance to converse with leadman Mike Pace online a little bit, and he said something to the tune of “Clearly online piracy has killed music commerce.” Their songs were spellbindingly great, all the more so from a music snob/nerd’s standpoint: never trying to do too much, the guitar-pop crests would mosey along, graced unawares by a lyric like “They’ll never be more than siblings / And I blew it will of mine” or “Reduced to bad boys by your smiiiiiile.”
Pace is now (apparently) in a band called The Child Actors, though they have only put out one song. But let me tell you, it is great, and it feels very much a part of him.
Which brings me to another solution to the piracy problem — you reduce yourself to hippiedom, the way of My Morning Jacket or Fleet Foxes (to a lesser extent). (Dude, I’m helpless! You think I’m capable of stylistically progressing from album to album?) There, that’ll get people to quit downloading our music.
Another solution is that, maybe you were weird enough to begin with that follower types weren’t into you in the first place, such that internet piracy plagued you to less of an extent, your fanbase being more passionate and occult, the type to actually purchase, vinyl CD or file, and low and behold you come to define in 2014 what music really is. Enter Liars. Mess is the model of what an album should be today: the sounds CUT THROUGH what we already know, but they’re not indulgent or faceless so much that they don’t have structures, and therein, identities. Also, Mess coheres as an ALBUM, and a casual observation I just made is that “Can’t Hear Well” is just like a 21st Century equivalent to “Sue Egypt” on Captain Beefheart’s late-in-career Doc at the Radar Station: it’s percussion-free, but it’s not some folk crap, it’s just the one channel that has been the given artists m.o. alone, showcased, and slowed down, eased and magnified. Also, both tracks appear fifth on the given album. Like Liars, on the west coast, Abe Vigoda and Health have gone electro, and thereby procured their longevity and continuing musical relevance.
Which brings me to the No Age solution: simply become a robot. Sure, on An Object, Dean Spunt is still moving his arms with drumsticks and singing, but he’s a little in love with himself in doing such; either that or he just hates us so much that he wants us to blow $13 on their new album. Fool me once, shame on you, Dean.
Cheri Oteri, the late-’90’s and I think early-’00’s Saturday Night Live actress, used to play characters like “Colette Reardon,” a wired old lady in the pharmacy hopped up on like 40 different medications, and she once said, “I like to play characters who don’t know how bad they’ve got it.” This kind of seems to me to be the plight of Carl Newman and The New Pornographers. Not that fronting a band with Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar should be seen as bad, I’m not that cool myself, but, as Franz Ferdinand once said, “You could have it so much better,” at least that’s how it seems to me. And hence the continuing drive. And indeed, I once read an interview with Newman in which he showed a clear jealousy for bands who “hit it big,” so to speak, like The Vines.
Around the time I heard a song by the guy who’d written Soul Coughing’s “Blue-Eyed Devil” called “40 Grand in the Hole,” I lost my myth that bands who write great music become rich, and I’m pretty sure this is probably what happened to Newman, whose last solo album probably yielded a negative return. I for one ripped it from the library, and it had its share of solid melodies, but didn’t really differ in style or mojo, if you will, from its predecessor Get Guilty, and sometimes the solution to this, it seems, tweaking your style, that is, might be actually making new friends, the kind who would play new instruments and give your album a jagged bolt.
But he’s got old friends, and Brill Bruisers does anything but disappoint the eager New Pornographers fan. Newman’s voice is still capable of delivering you to a delicate, dangerous, hedonistic precipice, but it all comes off as forward-thinking rock, which is the beauty of it, and if any such apocalypse is eminent as implied by that one Bejar tune on Bruisers, it’s that most MORTALS on the west coast can’t make a good album using only garage rock rudiments anymore.

The second most ripped off band ever may be Califone, again given continuing undeniability of muse.


186 thoughts on ““The New Pornographers: The Most Ripped-Off Band in the World”

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