Never mind their naughty, naughty name, the New Pornographers, a veritable herd of super-talented late-thirty/early-fortysomething Vancouverites, have put out five albums of smart, sharply ingratiating pop over the last decade. The New Pornographers aren’t so much a traditional band as they are a sort of indie-rock network whose members – most famous among them singer-songwriters Neko Case and Carl (A.C.) Newman – freely engage in high profile solo projects (Case’s Middle Cyclone was one of the most critically celebrated albums of 2009), or form other groups with each other and other local musicians.
Their latest album, appropriately titled Together hit stores last month, accompanied by the single “Crash Years” , and if ever the band is to break out of the indie-rock ghetto and score a major hit single on the pop charts, this will be the song to do it. The song is a sweet, summery ode to… well, ruin. Physical ruin. Personal ruin. Societal ruin. Economic ruin. Who knows. Take your pick. The New Pornographers leave us room to choose, and if we’re all so well-adjusted that nothing springs immediately to mind from our personal lives, the evening news has certainly presented us with a nice buffet of creeping dread to resonate with. (Is that oil I smell? Or just dead pelican?) Meanwhile, the band whistles a happy tune (literally) over big, airy guitar strumming, and one of the best instrumental hooks I’ve ever heard. As great as Case’s singing on the track is, it took me about a half dozen listens before I was even paying attention to what she was singing, I was so taken by the pizzicato bass-guitar-cello’s winking, nudging bum-bum-BUM-bump, bum-bum-BUM-bump hook.
It’s pretty much a recession-era street party of a song, culminating with a promise that “tonight will be an open mic”. Which could mean that tonight’s the night, you get up on a stage and embarrass yourself with recitations of your corny dead-dog poetry. Or it could be an exhortation: Engage! Dance! Sing! Like, democracy, baby! The band have put out a video for the song – one of those choreographed single-shot deals featuring a slow parade of multi-colored Busby Berkeley umbrella dancers performing on what looks like a freshly rained-upon, brick-paved boulevard. It’s clever enough, but sort of a drag. To really see this song in action, check out the band’s performance on the Jimmy Fallon show from last month: