Issue January 20, 2009

Get Guilty

A.C. Newman
MATADOR

Bottom line: Good but not excellent, familiar but not memorable. As the ringleader of New Pornographers, one would (rightly) expect a bit more from A.C. (or Allan Carl, as his mother calls him). Get Guilty is full of intricately layered, breathy Beach Boys harmonies, buoyant, bouncy melodies, la-la-las and a catchy-as-crack choruses that would make Burt Bacharach pop an 80-year-old boner. Yet the ditties (that reach back to the ’60s/’70s folk-pop playbook) never quite transcend the saccharin.

What’s missing are straightforward, honest moments. The album seems to, at times, pride itself on its grand (and convoluted) sense of self-importance. A hipster move, but who really cares about “Submarines of Stockholm”? What does this music teach us about ourselves? How do these songs help listeners more accurately and/or more deeply understand the complexities of the human soul? They don’t. Instead, they joke and muck about, letting their inexplicable cheer drape arty poetry over the hooks where hearts should be.

Granted, this sort of distraction can be valuable, especially on down days. But wouldn’t it be better if one could walk away from Guilty with some newfound innocence? Or at least something worth singing about?