Origin of the New Pornographers Name: From a Japanese film title The Pornographers and not from fallen TV Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's claim that Rock N' Roll was the 'new pornography'
Side projects have a way of taking on a life all their own. For example, there's the New Pornographers. This Vancouver based collective came together in '96 around vocalist/multi-instrumentalist A.C. (Carl) Newman, vocalist/guitarist Dan Bejar, bassist John Collins, synthesizer player Blaine Thurier (also a well known cartoonist/filmmaker) and vocalist Neko Case.
They watched members come and go, including Case and Thurier, who subsequently returned. Case relocated to Chicago while Thurier worked his film Low Self Esteem Girl. In addition, there were periods of inactivity as members worked with other bands or on outside ventures.
It was difficult to determine whether the New Pornographers was the main endeavor or in fact a side project for its members. But in '00 things were on track with the addition of drummer Kurt Dahle and guitarist Todd Fancey.
The New Pornographers debut album "Mass Romantic" won indie critic's praise as did "Electric Version" which came out three years later. That may seem like a long time between releases, especially for a relatively new band. Here's what happened. The group played Austin's SXSW in '01 and even had the honor of Ray Davies joining them onstage for a performance of the Kinks' "Starstruck." That was followed by a brief North American tour. But rather than build on the momentum, members decided to once again focus on individual projects. However, once those labors were completed, abandoned or a combination of the two, the New Pornographers returned to the studio.
For '05 release "Twin Cinema" the New Pornographers beefed up their vocal chops with Kathryn Calder and Nora O'Connor. Calder, who also played piano, was Newman's niece. Nice to keep family members employed. She was brought onboard largely as a live replacement for Case, whose solo career often created scheduling difficulties.
Looking less and less like a side project and more like a full-time, real deal, the New Pornographers returned in '07 with "The Challengers." The set held Calder's first vocals with the band. Her lead on "Failsafe" and duel lead with Newman on "Adventures In Solitude."
Calder's solo album debut, "Are You My Mother?," was released in '10. The title, referencing the children's book of the same name, was recorded while Calder was caring for her sick mother, who later died of Lou Gehrig's disease.
The New Pornographers fifth album "Together," a '10 release, was dedicated to the memory of Calder's mother. The album included a collaboration with St. Vincent (the guitar solo on "My Shepherd").
Two years later, the New Pornographers contributed a cover of "Think About Me" for the Fleetwood Mac tribute CD "Just Tell Me That You Want Me."
And two years after that ('14), the band's sixth album, "Brill Bruisers," was released.
2000 Mass Romantic
2003 Electric Version
2005 Twin Cinema
2014 Brill Bruisers
You'd think with a name like the New Pornographers that they would be a hard core Punk band with a penchant for explicit lyrics. But no. They blend acoustic and electric instruments with strong, melodic vocals.
"Together" is Folk-Rock cabaret with enough embellishments to impress the Beach Boys, circa "Pet Sounds." It's an appealing synthesis of what the New Pornographers do best - great tunes with a lot of smart stuff going on.