The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema

Twin Cinema (2005)


1. Twin Cinema 2. The Bones Of An Idol 3. Use It 4. The Bleeding Heart Show 5. Jackie, Dressed In Cobras 6. The Jessica Numbers 7. These Are The Fables 8. Sing Me Spanish Techno 9. Falling Through Your Clothes 10. Broken Breads 11. Three Or Four 12. Star Bodies 13. Streets Of Fire 14. Stacked Crooked


You can probably gather pretty easily that I like music a lot. But you know what else I like a lot? I mean, besides nachos and blowjobs (oh man, anyone ever gotten a BJ while simultaneously eating nachos? That’s got to be awesome)? Baseball. Baseball is one of the most brilliant creations that America can claim as its own, right up there with Swiffer mops and the turducken. Nothing in the world of sports, in my opinion, requires the level of both cerebral and athletic skill and strategy, or the level of reward for fans, that baseball does. And I can tell you as someone who played baseball at a reasonably high level for eleven years (yeah, I guess I’ve become some sort of music geek writer/dirty hippie, but I really did used to play sports!), there are few to zero feelings in the world that compare to the sensation you get when you catch a good hard fastball right on the barrel of the bat and send it flying into the outfield. It sends smooth vibrations through your whole body; it’s like sticking your dick in warm butter.

I’ve led a very blessed life and have had to deal with very little, if any, tragedy or trauma (and I wish I could come up with a more secular term than “blessed,” but I do feel like I have been. Let’s just say I was “blessed” by the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Likewise, though I’ve done lots of things that I’m very proud of, I don’t think there’s any emotional high quite like the one that results from triumph in sports. So I can honestly say that perhaps my highest and lowest single moments—or close, anyway—came during the same day, on a baseball diamond. It was my junior year of high school and we were playing a pressure-packed playoff game against our archrivals, Poly Prep. We were down by four runs in the fourth inning when I came up to bat with the bases loaded against J.J. Franco, son of legendary Mets reliever John Franco. He hit me with two quick strikes, and then hung me a breaking ball right down the middle of the plate, which I proceeded to slam deep into the left field corner for a bases-clearing double. I swear, from the moment the ball left Franco’s hand to the time the play was over, it felt like time slowed down to a near standstill and all sounds were blocked out of my ears. It was surreal. And lemme tell you, the way I felt as I stood on second base was, in summary, pretty fucking awesome. Unfortunately, after a classic, hard-fought game that saw us come back from yet another four-run deficit, we ended up losing in extra innings. The way that felt, as you might imagine, was decidedly not awesome. It was pretty painful, in fact. So, on the way home, to reconcile what can only be described as, to use a clichéd but apt phrase, the emotional roller coaster than I had experienced during the game, I got out my iPod and listened to the New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema. There was no other album I could think of that could have better suited what I experienced that day, that could allow me to wallow in my deep disappointment while also joyously uplifting my mind and spirit.

I relay all this to you, random internet reader, because there is a common perception out there that pop songs, simply by the apparent burden of their sugary melodies and feel-good natures, are by and large shallow and meaningless, that they can’t be considered true “art” like, say, Bob Dylan can. If you ask me, Twin Cinema should obliterate this stupid generalization in the mind of everyone who hears it. Go ahead, listen to the mass-chanted “hey la” coda of “The Bleeding Heart Show” and tell me it doesn’t take a stroke of genius to come up with music that fucking beautiful. No matter how many times I’ve heard it—which is a lot of times—it has never once failed to literally send chills down my spine. Never. Not once. From Mozart to McCartney, I’m so not sure I’ve heard a more gorgeous, uplifting, resonant and powerful piece of music. When Neko comes in belting it out on top, there have been times when I’ve had to make an effort to not start crying from the sheer beauty: “we have arrived too late to play the bleeding heart show.” I am not exaggerating.

Twin Cinema follows its kingpin track’s formula in order to achieve pop masterpiece status: a marriage of genius pop song structures and delicate emotional resonance. There are only a couple of sugar buzz Mass Romantic/Electric Version-style guitar-driven pop rockers here (“Sing Me Spanish Techno,” “Star Bodies” and the title track, an Electric Version leftover that’s certainly at least as good, and rocks at least as hard, as anything on that album), while there’s a high preponderance of acoustic guitars and piano (courtesy of Carl’s niece, the band’s newest member and resident cutie, Kathryn Calder) in their stead. These are clear indicators of the band’s, to use a blanket term, maturation, and they mean that Twin Cinema is like no indie pop record you’ve ever heard before. If acoustic guitars are indeed more inherently sophisticated that fuzzed out bubblegum choruses like most people seem to think, then I guess Carl is writing at a more sophisticated level here, but absolutely not in a way that ever becomes dreary or obscures his natural gift for writing effortlessly memorable pop hooks. There are even more ridiculously catchy, melodic pop ideas here than there were on previous New Pornos records; they’re just delivered in a more understated or, perhaps, cleverer way than they were on, say, “Letter From An Occupant.” Like the sudden upbeat, piano-led coda of the Neko-sung torch ballad “These Are The Fables.” Or the angelic slide guitar breaks in “The Bones Of Idol,” which are almost Exile On Main St.-worthy. Or the way a catchy pop melody is jarringly but intriguingly paired with dark, heavy rock music in “The Jessica Numbers.” Or the entrancing, mechanical-sounding singing during the chorus of “Falling Through Your Clothes,” which is easily my least favorite song on the album but still contains more intelligent musical ideas than I can shake a tree at. Throw in a couple of excellent glammy Bejar rockers (“Jackie, Dressed In Cobras,” “Broken Breads”) and you’ve got yourself a damn classic. Don’t let the fact that the cover looks a lime fucking a banana deter you – Twin Cinema is as good as power pop gets. Just be prepared to leave behind any pre-conceived notions of what power pop is – they will be rendered obsolete.

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