Release Date: Aug 21, 2007
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
At least that's true of Newman's tunes, and he once again dominates the album, writing nine out of the 12 tracks. Newman has a knack for writing segments that are bright, hooky, and seemingly indelible, possessing the blinding rush of the best power pop, but when he's writing for this band, he assembles these colorful shards of melody in challenging ways, creating intricate mosaics where the melodies never quite lead exactly where they seem they would. Although the New Pornographers play these songs with an unassuming directness, Newman's pop requires active listening, especially here on Challengers, as it's built upon carefully arranged and quietly performed songs.
The history of supergroups is a long one – and surprisingly devoid of illustrious moments. When pressed, most people will cite CSNY and Cream as high points, alongside crushing wastes of talent (Traveling Wilburys) and soulless grabs for market share (Asia, Zwan, ad infinitum). There are any number of theories about why star-studded ensembles fall short of expectations.
The New Pornographers want you to put yer dukes up. After all, the Vancouver octet's previous two releases, 2003's Electric Version and Twin Cinema two years later, were equal parts menace and joie de vivre, coming out swinging and landing almost every indie-pop punch perfectly. Sadly, this fourth outing is far from a TKO. Instead, it's a 98-pound weakling wheezing against the ropes.