CD Review: The New Pornographers - Challengers

Categories: Music

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The New Pornographers
Challengers
(Matador)
The New Pornographers rarely grab listeners the first time around. Even after two or three spins, their songs don't reveal that much—a tiny hook here, a slight turn of phrase there. Challengers, their fourth album, is no different. At first, it sounds like a solid if not particularly melodic set of songs. But then it grasps with such force, you'll wonder how you initially overlooked its sway. Challengers is indeed a more challenging record than the Canadian group's previous albums. It's a bit more meditative and complex than 2005's relatively straightforward Twin Cinema. Its best song, the slow-building "My Rights Versus Yours," is erected atop a sequence of abstract words and a vaguely British lilt circa 1977. The Pornographers even get epic on the six-minute "Unguided," in which frontman A.C. Newman contemplates his recent move to Brooklyn. Their most famous member, Neko Case, plays a relatively supporting role on Challengers, checking in with only one stellar solo showcase: the lovely "Go Places." But as their individual personalities give way to the bigger picture—check out the closing "The Spirit of Giving," where all eight Pornographers truly band together—the appeal is obvious from the start. MICHAEL GALLUCCI

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