The New Pornographers: Electric Version (Matador)

Even so, the structure of the band seems infallible, as it allows for nonstop action.

As any hipster worth his glasses would be quick to tell you, the 2000 debut of the New Pornographers, a profoundly catchy disc of unrelenting power pop called Mass Romantic, was one of the greatest indie rock finds of recent years. It was released on the Canadian label Mint Records and had just enough pseudo-rockers like Neko Case and Carl Newman (of the Sub Pop band Zumpano) attached to get at least a little interest stirred up from the outset. A few months after its release, it was next to impossible to find, as the unexpected demand for the disc put most distributors into deep back-order hell. While everyone was still scrambling to pick up Mass Romantic and discover just how intimidatingly brilliant it is, the Pornographers recorded their follow-up, this time for Matador, entitled Electric Version. It must have been ulcer-inducing for TNP to try to come up with a reasonable follow-up, but regardless of the trials that may or may not have gone into making the album, it is here, and awaiting the rabid consumption by the Pornographers’ many waiting followers.

As one would assume (it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise, really), Electric Version is not as good as Mass Romantic. I would even go so far as to say that it isn’t anywhere near as good as Mass Romantic. However, speaking relatively to every other CD released ever, Electric Version is a fantastic disc that will surely bring the band more followers. Furthermore, I doubt that most people will be disappointed with it in any way, shape, or form. The only thing that prevents Electric from achieving the level of Romantic is that the debut had two kinds of songs: unbelievable rockers like the title track or “Letter From an Occupant” (the latter being my pick for the best out-and-out rock song of the new millennium) and songs that on any other album would have been amazing but got lost in the milieu of incredibility, such as “The Body Says No.”

Electric Version also has two types of songs: unbelievable rockers like the title track and “The Laws Have Changed” and songs that are pretty good but don’t quite stand up to the rest of the Pornographers’ back catalog, such as “From Blown Speakers” and “Miss Teen Wordpower.” Also, TNP created the band to allow for the maximum number of vocalists possible, and Mass Romantic seamlessly meshed them all together, whereas Electric Version’s good songs pretty much always have Case doing the howling (the aforementioned “Electric Version” and “The Laws Have Changed,” as well as the third best song on the CD, “All for Swinging You Around,” are all at least partially Case’s).

Even so, the structure of the band seems infallible, as it allows for nonstop action—they are always mixing things up and keeping it interesting with different chemistry between vocalists and freakishly addictive hooks in practically every song. It seems almost unfair that the band can hold such a monopoly on power pop, but then, after listening to how inexplicably good both of their CDs are, it seems unfair to care.

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