The traditional knock on the supergroup is that too many chef's spoil the broth. That it is the singular unique voice that makes the solo artist powerful and the collection of them, well, not. The New Pornographers have managed to sidestep this by staying less of a supergroup and more of a songwriters circle. Hence, the sound is less of collective and cohesion and one more of mutual respect around a set theme. I've never been in a songwriters circle, so I can only imagine that it must be something like a writer's workshop matched with an olympic-caliber dishwashing pair -- you wash, I'll dry. Still, despite the impressive lineup, the group has always felt like Carl Newman's brainchild -- the neo-Specter power-pop is usually fronted by Newman with aid from Dan Bejar & Neko Case. If everyone else is washing the dishes, Carl's usually dirtied them.
Being a huge Destroyer and Neko fan, it's kept me from getting into The New Pornographers a bit. Sure, I've always thought they had some exquisite tunes ("From Blown Speakers" comes immediately to mind. But to think that their new LP Together was going to be anything aside from a continuing exploration into the pop landscape that the Canucks have plowed is perhaps the wrong way to go about it.
Together, like their other albums, sounds almost antiquated in the post-OK Computer landscape. It's not organized around a theme. There's no narrative. The lineup is in flux. It's a collection of songs. And true to form, there are some real jewels like "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk," "Your Hands (Together)," even "Valkyrie in the Roller Disco" (which seems to reach a bit further with the title than the song capitalizes on). And frankly, you'll feel the same way about this album as you did after the first few. Admit it, you weren't sure what all the fuss was about either.
But to feel that this album is supposed to be revolutionary or shake the foundations of what you listen to or even jump its way into the top 5 of your year is kind of missing the point. The New Pornographers don't have any beef or world to shake. What's immediately obvious from this album is that they just love playing/writing together. And really, what's wrong with that?