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The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions (Album Review)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

The New Pornographers, the Canadian power-pop conglomerate led by AC Newman, have always somehow evaded the spotlight in the UK compared to how they are viewed back home. Their success on this side of the Atlantic is somewhat muted despite their indisputable ability to conjure up catchy, sugary pop nuggets.

The band’s previous album, ‘Brill Bruisers’, continued a rich vein of consistently addictive, enjoyable records but fitted their sound with a slightly more synth-oriented approach. Joining Newman, Neko Case, Kathryn Calder and friends on that outing was Dan Bejar but, having been engaged with work on the follow-up to his Destroyer project's 2015 LP ‘Poison Season’, he is absent from the cast list for ‘Whiteout Conditions’ along with drummer Kurt Dahle​, who was replaced by Joe Seiders​ in 2014.

Front-loading albums with the best tracks is often a difficult trick to pull off, with patience wearing out after a blistering start. And, in the case of ‘Whiteout Conditions’, the opening salvo does loom large over the remainder of the collection.

From Case’s upbeat, sparkly opening track Play Money to the call and response duet of High Ticket Attractions, with its hideously catchy chorus and synth swathes, it’s a fast start, despite the latter being written about concerns over a potential Donald Trump presidency prior to his election.

Sandwiched between the two is the majestic title track. Here they utilise arpeggiators to create something with a bubbly background akin to Western Promise from Ultravox’s classic 1980 album ‘Vienna’ while contrasting the subject of depression with a fun-filled instrumental.

Closing number Avalanche Alley employs a similar trait to the title track, with the song’s faster tempo conveying its message of “news from the next world, news from the future”. Again, there’s more evidence of arpeggiator experimentation for the impressive Clockwise, with an added guitar riff conveying some menace.

But the middle section of the album is less inspiring. This Is The World Of The Theater has the capacity to irritate despite picking up for some warming harmonies, while Darling Shade is little more than dull filler. The same can be said for the tedious Juke.

Second Sleep suffers from a similar sense of uneventfulness, disappearing from the memory all too quickly as it sorely lacks the ability to grab attention. Similarly, Colosseums needs more than just its catchy beat to succeed. We’ve Been Here Before, however, is an unexpected sonic delight seemingly at odds with the style of the rest of the album. With harmonies that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it’s simply gorgeous.

With the New Pornographers set to play shows on the East coast of America with Spoon, it’s easy to spot the similarities in the fortunes of each band. With both perhaps underappreciated by the world at large, it would appear to be a match made in heaven. If it were a two-horse race between ‘Whiteout Conditions’ and Spoon’s recent ‘Hot Thoughts’ album, though, the latter would probably win by a nag’s head. Despite some addictive moments, ‘Whiteout Conditions’ doesn’t quite last the pace.

The New Pornographers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue May 09 2017 - LONDON Electric Ballroom

Click here to compare & buy The New Pornographers Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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