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The New Pornographers - In The Morse Code of Brake Lights (Album Review)

Friday, 27 September 2019 Written by Graeme Marsh

The New Pornographers are anything but idle, with the curiously-titled, self-produced ‘In the Morse Code of Brake Lights’, their eighth studio album since 2000’s ‘Mass Romantic’. Following 2017’s ‘Whiteout Conditions’ the Canadian power-pop collective have had plenty going on, with Neko Case’s excellent 2018 LP ‘Hell-On’ a prime example. Although, given the vocalist’s own successes, it should probably be noted that the New Pornographers are the ‘in between’ in her case.

Always consistent, it’s a wonder that the band haven’t achieved a greater worldwide audience. Their new album doesn’t break the mould, even if main protagonist Carl Newman has rather unwittingly ended up orchestrating more songs about cars than he intended. Elsewhere, he ticks off the political landscape in the US and, of course, love.

Falling Down The Stairs of Your Smile addresses ideas of romance and happiness in the modern world through its titular metaphor. Initially deemed surplus to requirements by Newman—let alone a pick as the lead single—it was down to his friends to convince him to stick with it, and its clapping-tambourine rhythm is compelling. 

Room-filling grand piano boosts the more minimalist Need Some Giants, a trait shared by the sparse You Won’t Need Those Where You’re Going. Elsewhere we’re treated to screeching strings during Dreamlike And On The Rush, with the compositional approach changing to maintain strong interest song-to-song.

The bubbly Opening Ceremony lifts the tempo, along with the catchy One Kind Of Solomon, whereas the slower Higher Beams is melodically excellent. Its lyrics convey serious messages with tongue-in-cheek humour, with “thank you for nothing” soon becoming “fuck you for nothing”. 

The album is literally bookended with car references, and the opener You’ll Need A Backseat Driver boasts flecks of reverb guitar intertwined with something approaching wind chimes. Closing duet Leather on the Seat, meanwhile, utilises manic strings as it aims for a cinematic presence. The Surprise Knock rekindles the band’s tendency to cram lyrics into multi-note melodies to deliver a decent cut about US immigration, while political divisions are then attacked during the excellent Case-led Colossus of Rhodes.

With such a talented bunch of musicians continually pushing each other, it’s no wonder that the New Pornographers keep knocking out quality albums, and ‘In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights’ is another enjoyable one for the list. If you want eclectic entertainment with few dull moments, look no further.

The New Pornographers Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri September 27 2019 - MADISON Wisconsin - Majestic Theatre Madison (USA)
Mon November 04 2019 - BOSTON Massachusetts - Royale (USA)
Tue November 05 2019 - WASHINGTON District Of Columbia - 9:30 Club (USA)
Wed November 06 2019 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Lincoln Theatre (USA)
Thu November 07 2019 - BROOKLYN New York - Brooklyn Steel (USA)
Mon November 11 2019 - ASHEVILLE North Carolina - Orange Peel (USA)
Tue November 12 2019 - ATLANTA Georgia - Buckhead Theatre presented by Cricket Wireless (USA)
Thu November 14 2019 - NORTH ADAMS - MassMoCA - Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (USA)

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