The New Pornographers – Electric Version

Electric Version (2003)

A-

1. The Electric Version 2. From Blown Speakers 3. The Laws Have Changed 4. The End Of Medicine 5. Loose Translation 6. Chump Change 7. All For Swinging You Around 8. The New Face Of Zero And One 9. Testament To Youth In Verse 10. It’s Only Divine Right 11. Ballad Of A Comeback Kid 12. July Jones 13. Miss Teen Wordpower

 

Altogether more cleaned up and less ferocious than Mass Romantic, and production-wise hedging much closer to familiar (a cynic’s synonym: generic) for indie pop/rock. But it’s hardly any worse, and perhaps even a little better, in my humble opinion. They’ve added a second guitarist, Todd Fancey, which is a plus, even if this band isn’t exactly a renowned vessel for guitar wanking (though the squealing leads at the end of the thrilling (relatively) hard rocker “It’s Only Divine Right” would beg to differ). But the main difference between this one and That Goat Is Watching Us Fuck is that they’re no longer playing every note of every song like their balls are on fire. Don’t worry, the material is still mostly hopped-up rockin’ power pop. But the mix is much cleaner, and even though there’s still a ton of stuff going on, you can hear every element very clearly, instead of hearing just a squall of supercatchy noise. Both approaches have their pluses and minus; you can decide for yourself which you prefer. Personally, I think The Electric Version makes the ever-improving hooks easier to absorb and therefore enjoy. And though there may not be anything here as purely visceral and exciting as “Letter From An Occupant,” front to back consistency and diversity of sound makes Imprisoned Monkey the slightly more enjoyable record.

If there’s no “Letter From An Occupant” on this album, well, “The Laws Have Changed” is pretty damn close – it’s certainly got the cornucopia of maddeningly catchy, upbeat hooks that “Occupant” does. It’s perhaps the best example of how perfectly Neko’s voice is used on this record – Carl sings the more relaxed verses, which only serves to emphasize the eventual chorus explosion, on which Neko takes the lead. It’s a smart trick that’s also applied to the high speed, bubblegum title track and the closer “Miss Teen Wordpower,” which sports not only one of the band’s cutest, catchiest melodies, but also one of its most relatable lyric sheets – at least to anyone who has ever known an angsty 16-year old aspiring poet. “Nobody knows the wreck of soul the way you do,” belts Neko – and what artistically inclined teenager doesn’t believe that on some level? Neko also gets to sing the album’s sugariest melody on “All For Swinging You Around,” a rocking ode to rocking out on stage. After this album, Carl would start to give Neko slower, acoustic-based songs to sing, i.e. material more similar to that on her solo albums. She always does a great job with them, of course, but it’s not quite the same as getting to hear her sing upbeat power pop on these first two New Pornos albums – it’s what made her presence in the band so much fun.

Energy and quality-wise, there are a couple of momentary lulls in the proceedings—the generic “July Jones,” the solid but ultimately Bejar-by numbers “The Ballad Of A Comeback Kid,” the uneventful verses of “The New Face Of Zero And One” (the chorus, meanwhile, is aces)—while Mass Romantic was anything but lulling even if it may have gotten carried away in places. But said lulls are far from lackluster, and easy to sit through, especially when the rewards include the endlessly catchy codas of “From Blown Speakers” and Bejar’s stunning “Testament To Youth In Verse,” one of the best songs in his and the ‘Nographers’ catalog. It certainly rivals “Carol Of The Bells” as far as human imitation of tolling bells. And that is one kickass Christmas Carol. This song rules more.

I know that’s a weird ending, but I just drank all the beers. I will probably think the last paragraph of this review sucks ass in the morning.



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