The New Pornographers - Together
Together is a more raucous and chaotic album than 2007's Challengers and feels a little more like The New Pornographers' earlier releases Twin Cinema and Electric Version. But it's still a far cry from their crunchier rock beginnings too. In that way Together is an anomaly, stuck somewhere between the band's sweeter, melodic desires and their edgier interests. It seems a bit stuck in neutral, not moving forward or backward, but staying a course of solid, but non-life-changing rock. Still, I can't decry the album much. It opens with two exceptional songs back-to-back, "Moves" and then the Neko Case-powered "Crash Years." Both songs being strong anthems and characteristically fun tracks. It's not really possible, I think, to be disappointed by The New Pornographers. They're too objectively great to fail their listeners, and when you have a little bit of fan passion invested them, they're just bound to drop great music right into your ears like honey. That's why they can succeed with a song like "Crash Years," which rides a hooky bass/guitar line all over and holds tightly to you with semi-old school sentiments.
"Your Hands (Together)" is another success insofar as it has a built-in hook and demands repeat listening, even if it's not the best song the band has ever churned out. It makes you feel like moving, it's a driving song, a song about motion and a growling desire to fight. "My Shepherd" is a song that slows the pace greatly, and feels like the quintessential solo Neko Case track, built around her voice, calm and beautiful, and not too challenging. And even though it's a great track, it also pulls the album back into a place that is more subdued than its opening. Which goes back to the album's fractured tone. There are a lot of almost great songs near the end of the album, that's a fact, but it's that they never reach great that is most disappointing (as I said though, I can't be disappointed completely by this band). "Up In The Dark" is a speed high-point to the back half of the album, but it never gets over the hump from good to great, great to excellent. It's not forgettable, but it's not readily memorable either. Despite being a fun tune to listen to. They can't all be winners though, and it's unrealistic to expect some sort of perfection from any band. On the upside, the album closes well with "A Bite Out Of My Bed," "Daughters Of Sorrow" and "We End Up Together," all of which do some great work vocally and lyrically, and pique the interest as much as hold it. Ultimately, if you liked and/or loved Challengers you'll find a solid handful of songs on Together to latch onto and love. The whole album may not be great, but sometimes we have to live with a few mediocre entries to get the great stuff. Something like eating a really tiresome breakfast cereal as a child, awaiting the prize in the box, or, even better, going on a bad date or two with the person you will still end up with. Sometimes the highlights are worth as much or more than the middling territories in between.
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