Fizzing arrangements and dizzying hooks.
Label: Collected Works
Released: 7th April 2017
Canada’s New Pornographers have always been greater than the sum of their parts – no mean feat when said parts include A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Destroyer’s Dan Bejar.
With Bejar missing from the recording sessions, though, it means ‘Whiteout Conditions’ is not classic New Pornographers, lacking the chaotic mischievousness that he brought to cuts like ‘War on the East Coast’ and ‘Jackie, Dressed In Cobras’. But it has also led to a more uniform sound, built around the vocal interplay and harmonies of Newman and Case. ‘Play Money’ is a riot, for example, coming off like an escaped cut from 2003’s ‘Electric Version’ in the throes of a champagne and prosecco bender.
Elsewhere, the Neko Case vehicle ‘This Is The World of the Theater’ is armed with the finest chorus on the album – always a feature of the New Pornographers’ stylistic pop songs – while ‘Colosseums’ is a nagging and insidious earworm.
Lyrically, ‘Whiteout Conditions’ is as cryptic and esoteric as ever – even by the New Pornographers’ bafflingly obscure standards. References to the Mayans, the Magna Carta, and living underwater – or in a valley of lead singers – whizz by, and while it’s impossible to decide whether it’s genius lyricism or diverting nonsense, it remains one of the most fun things about the New Pornographers’ image-rich pop music.
For all its fizzing arrangements and dizzying hooks, ‘Whiteout Conditions’ loses its way a little towards the end, though, with both ‘We’ve Been Here Before’ and ‘Juke’ feeling like pastiches of the New Pornographers at their best. That said, even though Bejar’s absence is noticeable, ‘Whiteout Conditions’ contains more than enough showstoppers to be a welcome addition to the New Pornographers’ excellent back catalogue. Rob Mair