New Pornographers' A.C. Newman Is Going To Start A Jam Band
Carl Newman, the New Pornographers frontman who also records apart from the group under the moniker A.C. Newman, just released his third solo offering, Shut Down the Streets, a couple of weeks ago. The album's equally inspired by two recent events -- the death of Newman's mother and the birth of his son -- and its 10 tracks, intended as a sort of throwback to lush, early '70s folk-pop, prominently feature backing vocals by his pal and New Pornos compadre Neko Case. We rang up the affable Newman at his Woodstock, NY home -- where he was doing some last-minute packing for his current U.S. tour -- for a round of "Reviewing the Reviews," wherein we read him excerpts from a handful of Shut Down the Streets reviews and got his reactions. "To a certain degree, sure," Newman replied when we asked him if he's generally been in the habit of reading reviews of his work. "For example, it's hard to avoid what Pitchfork says about your record. Even though I try not to pay too much attention to them, if you get a really great review from Pitchfork then somebody tells you. And if you don't, it's like, 'Hmmm ... why are people so silent about Pitchfork?'"
- The New Pornographers' A.C. Newman on Leaving Brooklyn for Woodstock and the Dirty Projectors' "Next Level Shit"
- On The New Pornographers' "Your Hands Together," Which You Can Listen To, Right Now
Newman plays Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ, tonight at 9 p.m. Tickets are $17.
On with the reviews...
Shut Down the Streets is not a record for the young -- it is wisdom wrapped around the indelible songwriting skills of one of Canada's most distinctive musicians. In any event, one thing is for sure. When I was in the dentist's chair a few months ago getting a root canal, Shut Down the Streets is the sort of album I would have wanted played in the background as a kind of anesthetic, a balm for the pain I had to endure. Of not only a bad tooth. Of inevitably growing old. (PopMatters)
Hey, you know, I think I agree with that because obviously there's a lot of themes on the record, but I remember making it thinking, 'Why would a 20-year-old like this record?' I just felt like I wasn't ... it wasnt like I was really trying to be universal, but I feel like everybody has to go through the death of their mother, unless they die first. A lot of people go through the birth of a child. The death of your mother and the birth of your son within a couple years of each other is not necessarily unique and I thought, 'This is something that would probably happen to someone my age .' Hopefully other people will like it, but it wasn't like I was trying to keep up with the times. I wasn't trying to make an EDM record. Which actually reminds me, last year I was in L.A. and I was having dinner with Aimee Mann and Michael Penn and I was talking with Aimee, like, there's gotta be a way to make records and embrace the fact that you're not young anymore. So many bands are just clinging...like Green Day is still spiking their hair and with all the eyeliner, and I thought, would it be so terrible to be like, 'Hey I'm 50 and I'm making music'? I think my version of surrendering to getting older is gonna be starting a jam band. Watch for it.
It's often hard to reconcile mature albums like Shut Down The Streets with an artist's earlier work. For Newman, that's especially true: The New Pornographers' first three albums are beloved indie-pop touchstones, and some fans aren't necessarily interested in hearing him turn introspective. Shut Down The Streets is worth getting over any bias, though: It's the rare adult album that isn't a self-indulgent bore. (A.V. Club)
Well that's very nice of them. I have to say I'm guilty of being a very fairweather fan. There have been bands where I've loved them and they've changed and I've said, 'I don't like you anymore.' Or sometimes I say, 'This album isn't as good as the last one, I'm sick of you, I'm moving on to another band.' And I understand, say, if Grizzly Bear suddenly made a really upbeat record, no matter how brilliant it was, I think people would be annoyed. They would go, 'Why did you do this? We come to you for a specific thing and you've given us something else.' And I think, yeah, the first three Pornographers records were so well-reviewed and so well-thought-of, and were on this ascent, and then on [2007's] Challengers I very obviously said 'No, I wanna take a left turn.' I thought, 'That's great that I did those records but I did three albums like that, am I supposed to keep doing that?' Maybe the most brilliant career move I could have done would be to keep making slight variations of Mass Romantic and Twin Cinema, but I couldn't. So, you know, I like to think everything I do has been pretty honest. The reason some of my music has become more mellow and introspective has been a direct reaction to things that are in my life. When I have a tragedy in my life I'm not gonna write about it in the form of [Twin Cinema's] 'Sing Me Spanish Techno' -- that's just stupid and disrespectful of the things you're going through. I think my music has followed where life has gone.