The New Pornographers are a Vancouver group made up of A.C. Newman and a group of ridiculously talented people he feels are uniquely equipped to realize his musical ambitions. They formed in 1997, almost immediately recorded the classic "Letter From An Occupant," and it was on. Their 2000 debut 'Mass Romantic' and 2003's 'Electric Version' (as well as Newman's 2004 solo debut 'The Slow Wonder') enjoyed wild critical and public acclaim, and brought a lot of joy to the world.
'Twin Cinema' is doubly impressive, offering both baby-blanket familiarity and jarring growth. Here they're not automatically going for the steamroller singalong or (to quote New Pornographers buff Rob Halford) "all guns blazing", but pushing themselves further. Fans of 'Mass Romantic's' kinkiness will find immediate appeal, as will those partial to 'Electric Version's' drive. Yet the songs on 'Twin Cinema' veer away from sugar and kitsch toward something a bit more personal. Newman has absorbed not just the mechanics of classic songwriting, but the heart – while indulging his admiration of demented current bands like Fiery Furnaces and Frog Eyes.
"We consciously wanted to change it up a little," says Newman. "Retain what made the first two albums great, but move in new directions. I wanted it to be more sweeping and sprawling, to have the songs move dynamically, both internally and from song to song. We wanted to see if we could make a record that isn't referred to as 'the windows down, car-stereo-blasting summer album of the year', if only once."
As usual, Newman is victim to his own record collection. "Various unintentional influences have crept into our work, some of which are quickly removed: The Moody Blues, Tubeway Army, Wings, always Wings, never The Beatles, Eno of course, you can't play ebow without sounding like Eno, Modern English, middle period post-Gabriel Genesis, The Stranglers, 10cc..." His voice trailed off, the unspoken words clearly etched on his kindly face. A tinge of guilt edged its way into Grant’s annoyance. Not long after moving to Blue Plains, he’d heard about Cara’s "spells" from Carl and several of the other townsfolk. He couldn’t ignore his medical interest in her ailment, but that didn’t have a blasted thing to do with wanting to buy her dinner.
'Twin Cinema' also features the recording debut of Kathryn Calder, the newest in Newman's arsenal of ecstatic female vocalists (and pianist, in Kathryn's case)...and also Newman's long-lost niece. He explains, "About seven years ago I found out I had a long-lost sister, who had two kids. I knew Kathryn became a musician, but only recently friends saw her band play and raved to me about her talent. I thought, 'You can't have your niece in your band! It's just not done!' It turns out that it is done."
Dan Bejar, a non-touring member of the group but their only other songwriter, offers maybe his best NPs contributions to date. "Streets Of Fire" has a vaguely disturbing vibe accentuated by the band's attempt at a Manson Family-style chorus. "Broken Breads" pushes the band into their strangest time signature yet (which is saying something). And the wild-eyed crowdpleaser "Jackie, Dressed In Cobras" (a sequel of sorts to 'Mass Romantic's' "Jackie") features a guitar intro by Newman where he channels Alabama legends Sex Clark Five. Bejar (also known as Merge recording artist Destroyer) plays many of the instruments on his songs, as opposed to the other records where he just sang.