It has been three years since Canada’s first supergroup, The New Pornographers, released their last record Challengers. For all that has changed in the band, however, it might as well be three days. With their new studio album – their fifth – the band have stuck strictly to the formula that has served them so well thus far in their careers. Opening with the sort of jaunty riff that is instantly recognisable as very much the territory of The New Pornographers, Together is a solid, if very typical, effort by the band.
This would be no problem if The New Pornographers were a band who had fully realised their potential, but for the fifth album in a row now they have managed just to miss the mark. Throughout Together we strike the same problem that turns up in all the band’s previous albums – every song sounds like it could go just that little bit further, push forward just a little bit harder. The tracks have all the makings of great rock music, but never seem to go quite as far as you first expect them to. ‘Your Hands (Together)’ is a prime example – opening with a stadium-ready chant that is never really allowed out of the player’s tunnel. The guitars are given free reign for second-long bursts, then restrained once more. Eventually the track breaks, and it comes close to realising its full potential but then, just as it’s getting there, it’s finished with. Done. Over. It isn’t painful, but it’s not far off.
All things taken into consideration, Together is far from a bad album. In fact, it’s really very good. Accusing a band of musical underachievement is a bit cheeky when this reviewer cannot even play ‘We Three Kings’ on a recorder, but it’s still very much the case with The New Pornographers. The talent is there. The song-writing ability is more than present. If Newman and his cohorts were only a little less restrained, we would perhaps have one of the great rock albums of the new century on our hands.