Catchier Than Vonnegut

I first became aware of the New Pornographers at the end of 2001, when their “Letter From an Occupant” was included by my friend Mike (Hi, Mike!) on his always highly anticipated year-end mix CD. As with most great loves, I was initially repulsed by the Pornographers; the chorus to “Occupant” featured a woman screeching, “For the love of a god, you say/Not a letter from an occupant,” followed by some guy “Ooooooo ooooooo“-ing so sappily he seemed to ape the very power pop being played.

But weeks later, when Mike asked me for reactions to his always highly anticipated year-end mix CD, I told him that though I fancied BRMC's “Rifles” and Strummer's “Silver and Gold,” I found myself most often skipping other tracks to get to “Occupant.” He told me Greil Marcus had chosen “Occupant” as his song of the year—I nodded as if I grasped the significance—and that the Pornographers were a “Canadian supergroup,” the words barely leaving his mouth before we both sniggered at the very idea.

I bought their CD Mass Romantic, and then 2003's Electric Version, popping each into the player and discarding the case as superfluous, which explains why I know very few of their song titles. I won't be so tiresome as to try and explain what it was about the band that stuck, except they seemed to produce wonderfully fun, smart, accessible music while accomplishing that wheeze Vonnegut does: creating art with a wink that acknowledges the act of creation while never diminishing that which has been created.

The Pornographers could begin “The New Face of Zero and One” with an “Ant Music” drum-rim intro and not come off as smug, could sing about Mary Martin and not seem precious, could delve into addiction and not seem self-absorbed. The saving grace was the musicianship of mainstays Carl Newman, Dan Bejar (Destroyer) and Neko Case, and it's a measure of their ability to mesh their individual talents that we can recommend the band's performance at the Galaxy Concert Theatre even though Case—who is, by the way, the most compelling female vocalist today—will not be there. (According to the band's publicist, Case will join the tour later on.) While disappointing—really, disappointing . . . like Nov. 5, 2004, disappointing—the talent of Newman and Bejar is more than enough to carry a great show, especially since the Pornographers' latest CD, Twin Cinema, is being met with ridiculous, album-of-the-year-type praise—online music mag Pitchfork called Cinema the band's “most consistent, confident, and best album,” giving it a 9 out of 10.

So that's nice. Anyway, you should go see them. Now, let me ask you: Did I come off as bitter at all in this? Fact is I love Neko Case, think she has the kind of arresting voice that comes along like, well, when did Exene and Chrissie Hynde come along? I dig her so much that when I heard she wasn't going to be at the Galaxy show, I went through those Kubler-Ross stages of death and dying, you know, if one of those stages is selling your tickets on eBay. But I'm over that now and looking forward to a great show.

That's called acceptance, my friend.

While this—NEEEEEEEEKOOOOO—is just sad.


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