Release Date: Jan 20, 2009
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Mates of State and Superchunk’s Jon Wurster jam with Newman on sophomore solo albumA.C. Newman is the primary songwriter for the New Pornographers, but he gets less attention than some of his bandmates. He isn’t countrified like Neko Case or ostentatiously theatrical like Dan Bejar (Destroyer). Instead, he deflects attention from his persona to his songwriting bona fides, availing himself of the layered production and inventive twists of ’60s/’70s stalwarts like Harry Nilsson.
Carl Newman has been behind so many excellent bands and albums that by 2009 it has become increasingly easy to take a new album for granted, to mistake his steady craftsmanship for complacency. While it's true that Get Guilty doesn't break any new ground, you'd be wrong to think that Newman is treading water or just cranking out albums because it's his job. The album is full of songs that would have made the cut for the New Pornographers' last couple albums -- in fact, some (like "The Heartbreak Rides" and "Submarines of Stockholm") would have bested everything there.
If we’re to believe A.C. Newman’s take on his own work, then the last New Pornographers’ album, Challengers, was the mellowest record he can make. Therefore, his sophomore solo record, Get Guilty, is a move towards something more rock. But if you compare the two albums side by side, it isn’t a particular mellowness in one that sets them apart.
Carl “A.C.” Newman, who spends his days fronting the New ?Pornographers, is a pop maximalist of the first order, fond of cramming blissful hooks, outlandish instrumentation, and lyrical non sequiturs into three-minute songs like so many clowns into an overstuffed car. But on Get Guilty, his second solo album, Newman ratchets down the excess while retaining his talent for killer, off-kilter ? melodies. The gorgeous “The Heartbreak Rides,” with its somber “yo-ho” chorus, could be about pirates driving to Los ? Angeles — but it’s mostly about Newman bolstering his rep as pop’s most infectious confectioner.
Well, I never thought I’d be calling a Carl Newman-helmed album “a grower.” But here we are: It’s 2009, and I’m stamping that overused critical term on his latest solo effort, Get Guilty. What a strange era we live in.Flash back to the first half of this decade, when Newman was crafting a ridiculous trilogy of pop albums with the New Pornographers: Mass Romantic in 2000, The Electric Version in ’03 and Twin Cinema in ‘05. Those songs were spring-loaded to burst from the speakers and smack people in the face on the first listen.
Let's be honest: we never want our favourite bands to change. We shudder when they claim they're embracing IDM on their new record, and we shrink when they trade their guitars for synthesizers. A.C. Newman's main gig The New Pornographers are a band seemingly built to inspire adulation. It's no ….
Some would argue that the existence of the New Pornographers as a recording concern renders superfluous any similarly quirky pop albums that Carl Newman might make with an alternate set of musicians to do his bidding. But even those not-quite-as-good AC Newman releases are more than mere vanity projects. Get Guilty proves that the often undervalued contributions of Newman's New Pornos mates are unique, valuable and ultimately essential to maintaining the group's lofty status.
A.C. Newman is adroit with words, but he doesn’t really trust them. Consider, for instance, that the central, triumphant lyric of opener “There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve” is fundamentally ambiguous: “Make of that what you will.” Or that in the huge, Beatles-esque fantasy, “Submarines of Stockholm,” he talks directly to the camera about songwriting, observing, “You start putting your words into shapes / Shapes you can only make out when you squint.” Or that in the single “The Palace at 4 a.m.” he makes the pledge, “No more pushing words around.” An immensely clever, allusive wordsmith, Newman seems to see the limits of pure cerebral narrative.
Although being the benevolent de facto dictator and primary songwriter of The New Pornographers, Carl Newman has been sage enough to share singing duties with Dan Bejar, Neko Case and – more latterly – Kathryn Calder, over the band’s increasingly successful four studio records to date. So when it comes to his solo side-project – which began with 2004’s The Slow Wonder – much of the appeal depends on whether you have the lust for a New Pornos album without all the extra-special personnel divvying-up lead microphone duties. This second ‘A.C.