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The New Pornographers were an alleged 'supergroup', led by principals Colin Newman (of Zumpano, of whom I've heard precisely one song on a power/pop compilation), Dan Bejar (of Destroyer, whom I've never heard at all), Neko Case (whose records I've never heard, but I've seen several racy photos of her on the Internet), and some other people from shitty little indie/rock bands no one outside of Moosejaw, Saskatchewan has ever heard (I'm assuming here).

As might be inferred from their band name, The New Pornographers don't in fact peddle cheesy soft-disco bubble-funk ´╗┐instrumentals set to the sound of a lonely housewife and appliance repair man moaning. No, this is bubble-gummy indie/rock - an infectious, 70's glammy stomp that recalls the best of Sweet and Wizzard - very very featherlite, and very very very catchy, but with sleek modernized guitar tones.

The band's Achilles' heel is beyond obvious after one exhausting listen (even at 41 minutes, the album seems to go on forever) ... their ABBA-meets-The-Ramones power/pop formula gets wearying real fast because - same as The Ramones - everything sounds the same.

The tunes are all relentlessly upbeat and saccharine, with zero emotional heft, and the guitar tone never, ever changes. Some of the songs are better than others ("Letter From an Occupant) and some worse ("Breakin' the Law"), and - in small doses of three or four of these twisty-turny numbers - it's a sugar rush, but sugar highs soon leave you hungover.

A consequence is whichever New Pornographers album you prefer entirely depends on which one you heard first. Nearly every other critic in the world prefers this debut to all their other albums, solely because it was the band's first release, whereas I personally prefer their second album because that was my first exposure to the band's music.

The title track celebrates the mass wedding of thousands of couples in South Korea in a giant ceremony by Sun Myung Yung's Unification Church; "The Fake Headlines" excoriates Fox News, Al Jazeera, Pravda, the National Enquirer, and the North Korean national news service.

"The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism" is a spoken-word piece cobbled together from the poetry of Charles Bukowski; "Mystery Hours" concerns the legendary missing minutes of time that got misplaced when the Catholic Church switched over from the Julian to Gregorian calendar.

"Jackie" on first glance is a cutesy-retro mash-note to Jackie Onassis, until the lyrics reveal that Bejar is in fact singing about raiding the Kennedy mausoleum, disinterring her corpse, and having his wicked way with her cold, dead bones. "Letter From an Occupant" is a social protest number in solidarity with postal workers' unions.

"To Wild Homes" is an autobiographical tale of Newman's raising as an abandoned orphan by wild geese in the northern Yukon province. "The Body Says No" is a bitter lament about a thwarted date rape, sung sympathetically from the point-of-view of the attempted rapist.

"Execution Day" is yet another rock song about Gary Gilmore; "Centre for Holy Wars" is a prescient warning released an entire year before 9/11, which not only eerily predicts the Twin Towers' demise, but calls Mohammed Atta and Bin Laden out by name.

"The Mary Martin Show" tells the true story of a Montreal children's show host convicted of paedophilia and assassinated by Quebecois separatist extremists. And finally, "Breakin' the Law" is indeed a cover of the Judas Priest classic, complete with cameo vocals from Rob Halford himself, who thoughtfully includes a rap break in the middle to keep with the times.

Then - over half-an-hour after the last track - there's a secret bonus track, which in keeping with the bestiality and Canadian pride themes of the disc, consists of the moanings and gruntings of a beaver being screwed by a moose.

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Posted: Monday 22nd Apr 2019 10:16 AM

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album review
Townshend's best solo album not coincidentally is also the one that sounds the most like a Who album. With backing from future members of Big Country, he delivers a surprisingly solid and exciting effort, especially considering the late date - most of his peers were releasing tripe by then.

I don't know what the band politics within The Who were, but it's obvious that Townshend was saving most of his good material for his solo work instead of for the band.

Empty Glass also seems to be the album in which he 'comes out of the closet', which might've been another reason its songs didn't wind up as Who numbers - I can't see Daltrey singing Rough boys, I want to bite and kiss you. "And I Moved" likewise hints at sexual ambiguity.

"Jools and Jim" is Townshend's defensive reaction to the press' handling of Moon's death, and one of the hardest-rocking and angriest songs he'd written in years. "Let My Love Open the Door" was the other big hit, and "I Am An Animal" and "Keep On Working" are almost as strong.

This is one of Townshend's best efforts, and actually stronger than any number of Who albums.

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Posted: Thursday 25th Apr 2019 11:11 AM

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