The New Pornographers – Challengers
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2007
I don't know why I bought this, because I absolutely hate this cover art. It's pretty much the ugliest thing I've ever seen. I do really like this record though, so maybe that's why. It's an important record too, because where Twin Cinema soundtrack Annie and I's ascent into friendship Challengers soundtracked our falling out. I never noticed, but on the record “Unguided” and “Failsafe” are switched around. It makes sense. I guess “Unguided” is a really good side ender. On the other hand, “Failsafe” is the weakest track on the record (through no fault of Kathryn Calder, who leant lead vocal duties, her first time doing this! She gets to really shine on “Adventures in Solitude,” however). This record is really sad though. Where Twin Cinema was about the thrill of the journey, Challengers is what happens after the journey is over. When everyone's settled down and trying to maintain the standard of living they've previously struggled to achieve. On one hand it's a complacent record, which it suffers for, but mostly it's really lonely and while the sad songs outweigh the upbeat pop jams, the pop jams are all pretty damn solid. “Mutiny I Promise You,” “All the Old Showstoppers,” and “All of the Things that Go to Make Heaven and Earth” are excellent AC Newman standards, where all of Dan Bejar's tunes are all pretty great, “Entering White Cecilia,” is the exception, which is slightly less than great, but it is made up for by “Myriad Harbour” which is probably the second best song on the record. The first is opener “My Rights Versus Yours,” which is more midtempo than the rest of the New Porns best jams, but it hits pretty hard. “Go Places” and the title track are also pretty magnificent and prove that Neko Case is still at the core of this band. Actually, this record doesn't really suffer. “Unguided” is a little long, and “Failsafe” is a little throwaway, and though I love “Adventures in Solitude,” I think this record really needs another upbeat song on side B. B-side “The Speed of Luxury” would have fit in excellently, but whatever, you can't change the past. But, I must ask: Is “The Spirit of Giving” about mutual fellatio?