The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers | Album Review | By Volume

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The New Pornographers

Brill Bruisers

A “celebration record” from an inherently celebratory band is a good thing.

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Author: on August 28, 2014
Matador Records
August 26, 2014

If you’ve heard one New Pornographers album, you’ve heard them all. Well, no — that’s a bit of horseshit, but only a bit. Described by A.C. Newman as a “celebration record”, Brill Bruisers feels like a victory lap for the Canadian dynamos. It’s also probably the best thing they’ve produced since their initial three-album-run of LPs so amazing it was difficult to believe they could keep it going. Well, they couldn’t. Challengers happened and the rest of us finally exhaled. Imagine being The New Pornos, though, and having to deal with that stress. As exceptional as Mass Romantic, Electric Version and (in particular) Twin Cinema are, they feel like the work of a long-gone band, before they earned their much deserved hype and fandom. Brill Bruisers is of that band, the first incarnation of The New Pornographers, and its celebratory vibe, its lack of any heavy emotional hindrance, grants the LP a wide-eyed excitement that the band have struggled to consistently capture on record for some time now.

And if I see no hope for me / I still see hope for you / In the wide eyes of the morning / The exception that proves my rule”, Neko Case sings on “Wide Eyes”, a late album slow-burner that is reminiscent of Case’s previous Pornos’ classic “These Are the Fables”. Reminiscent is a fitting descriptor for Brill Bruisers as a whole – it’s distinctly a New Pornos album, and couldn’t be anything but, yet something about Brill Bruisers feels like it’s from the past. A time ten(ish) years ago when Canadian indie rock was flourishing and the world was opening up to its juxtaposition of warm basslines and vocal melodies with chilly percussion and solemn themes (or if you’re part of BSS: how much you can fuck your friends). Sure, this wasn’t revolutionary, per se, but albums like Funeral, You Forgot It In People and Reconstruction Site were certainly a very refreshing take on a musical aesthetic that would soon enough wear out its welcome. Brill Bruisers doesn’t take its time lollygagging about and the album rarely wears the listener down. Really, this could be The Porno’s most jovial album to date, surpassing the reverberated exclamations of Electric Version, to settle in to their catalog as an accomplished band finding their comfort zone. Thing is, the New Pornographers have always been about taking the generic and propelling it into the stratosphere-of-excellence by way of high-flying arpeggiated guitar riffs and gang vocals. So, a comfort zone for them isn’t exactly a bad thing to have found.

We’re champions of red wine / We’re poured all over / It’s what we’re known for / The fine art of crossed lines / Crossed for old times / Like starting over”, Case exclaims on the exceptional “Champions of Red Wine”, easily one of the band’s best songs, and it feels a bit like a summation of Brill Bruisers as a whole. The album reads like a reset button for the band, but they aren’t forgetting their roots. If anything, The Pornos have dug deep into the ground to rediscover them once more. Neko Case and Dan Bejar are in the midst of the finest musical-runs of their careers so far and their assuredness is palpable on Brill Bruisers. As usual, Bejar controls the writing duties of the songs he fronts and all three of them are album highlights. While Case repeatedly takes A.C. Newman’s flighty yet introspective lyrics, and turns them into doctrine. When she equates a quick on-and-off fling with a street corner drug deal on “Drug Deal Of The Heart”, Newman’s lyrics damn near float off the spinning record as she utters them. It’s touching but also completely badass – The New Pornographers have always come off as a sum of some exceptional parts, yet now it feels like they’ve truly settled into one another as band mates and peers. So, yes, if you’ve heard and fallen for previous New Pornos records then Brill Bruisers should satiate your yearning, if not relight a fire under your ass you didn’t know was doused. And really, if this is the sound of the band finding comfort in their surroundings, enjoying middle-age and their lives as adults – maybe growing up isn’t as shitty as everyone paints it.

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