The New Pornographers
Continue as a Guest


2.5
average

Review

by Gene Gol-Jonsson CONTRIBUTOR (34 Reviews)
April 5th, 2023 | 14 replies


Release Date: 03/31/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: To be continued, guest or not...

A good chunky fat-bottomed portion of an artist’s life is spent in self-reflection. Generally, such inward retrospective is at an increase as time marches on. One re-examines their place in the world, their place in the band (if they have one), the reach their art has enjoyed, the skill they have honed over the years. And, perhaps subconsciously, what can they really do as artists. A.C. Newman, the bandleader and press officer of the ageing New Pornographers had the Covid lockdown to thank for this reflection and occasional revelation. Their newest album at the time was In the Morse Code of Brake Lights; the band mostly played out their strengths and tried and true tropes, all that the fans have come to expect and enjoy. Lockdown cut their touring short, relegated their social interaction to family and delivery drivers, left them effectively without a job. Many found it a stressful time, many also took the chance to learn something new, as did A.C. Newman. See, A.C. is a musician and band leader first and foremost. He has toyed with instrumental or production experimenting before, but never to any meaningful extent. Now he suddenly found himself alone with his instruments and a computer. What’s a guy to do?

Continue as a Guest is produced primarily by A.C. Newman. He already cracked a bone at production before, having mastered and mixed a few of the Pornographers’ previous discography. But the lockdown was long enough a period that one can learn a whole new musical discipline adequately. So he started out at home production, as he told NME. Now he appears to come back into play as a full-time producer with no input or help from other specialists. Trouble becomes apparent, when one realises that Newman’s production style, generally constructed of mild grungy and grainy placidity to be somewhat expected for a usual home production setup, is not the most flattering choice of sound for the Pornographers’ work. The collective thrives best when they are crispy clean, polished, coming off like a brand new Mercedes off the conveyor belt, freshly painted. Newman makes their sleek and gentle melodics take on a more raw, crusty character. In that a previously typical fragility disappears, female vocals become drowned out, and the melodies and harmonies lose their potency. At best there emerges a newfound roughness and no-nonsense attitude the band lacked in the past, but at worst all their characteristic delicacy is straight up lost and ignored.

So much is clear from the opener and lead-single; “Really Really Light” is about as light as a tyre skid. The chorus seems intended as actually uplifting, easy, levitating in a manner of construction, but the coarseness of its sound drowns out the group vocals, preventing any of its inner beauty to really blossom. That’s a great shame, because the lyrics and vocal performances are as strong as they’ve ever been with the Pornographers. Things smooth out a little with “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies” and “Cat and Mouse with the Light”, where the song writing thrived on a largely stripped-down, simpler approach. But more often than not the album falls just ever so short of its intended effect.

Too many songs have all eight band members and just as many session musicians coalescing in one messy mush of musical disharmony that fails to accurately showcase why all of them need to be on one record at once. “Last and Beautiful” and “Angelcover” are so straightforward and unassuming, all the instruments in the mix become one muffled sound. The piano and the flute (I assume) were quite difficult to pick up, unless one really listened in with careful effort. It certainly doesn’t help that the song writing and structure of “Angelcover” or “Firework in the Falling Snow” is about as remarkable as a fallen leaf in the mud. Apart from that, the mix lets too many out-of-tune vocal mishaps shine on the forefront, resulting in hardly flattering listen. Finally, the closing track “Wish Automatic Suite” to an extent repeats the drowsy messiness of the opener. There is a melodic component the band is going for, but it largely falls short due to overabundance of instruments and the production that does not know how to work them in fittingly.

Thematically, this album is not as cohesive as, say, Whiteout Conditions. But some introspections on ageing, indecision, need for self-reflection are present throughout the lyrics. There seems therefore a thin but far-reaching thread dragging through the album. Newman wanted Continue as a Guest to be fresh and sounding new for the band. To an extent the attempt was a success. It certainly is less subtle, less sparse than their usual output. This idea of change and reflection on what one did as an artist in the past threads both the lyrics and the production style. Songs like “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies” and “Bottle Episodes” carry that idea, along with some vague flashbacks to lockdown. Newman reflected on the past life in the texts, as well as on his past sound in the production, and decided to change. These attempts at newness are successful mainly in small doses, on tracks where the band is playing to their strengths, the aforementioned “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies”, “Cat and Mouse with the Light”, and “Bottle Episodes”.

Sadly, that still did not result in any particularly burgeoning album, as the clunky sound and mix, paired with not the most eclectic of the band’s song writing, bogged down the overall flow. Newman and the crew are on to something, nevertheless. Perhaps with more time and attempts at refining their new sound, they will actually manage to turn raw and grungy. There is potential there, but they’d first have to get the production settled, trim down the instrumental palette, and/or learn to adjust their vulnerable song writing to fit this new sound. As it stands, Continue as a Guest may prove a transitionary record or a mild detour leaving no mark on the band’s musical progression.



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user ratings (15)
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
someone
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2023


6563 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Started out writing a soundoff, ended up too long, so just slapped some opening statements and voila. The soundoffiness kinda shows I think, but whatever. Here’s to churning out reviews as if folks give a shit.



But anyway, support the band, their other work is certainly worth the listen: https://thenewpornos.bandcamp.com/album/continue-as-a-guest

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
April 5th 2023


32018 Comments


Well for what is worth I loved reading it. Great job dude. Not as good as WC, but I thought this was more than decent.

Problem is i think it will wear off soon.

someone
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2023


6563 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

yeah i enjoyed it fine at first, but as i listened again for the soundoff it did not click as much, so i went again and then again. it waned away pretty quick.

someone
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2023


6563 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

thx for the feature, mod babes

letsgofishing
April 6th 2023


1705 Comments


What's Dan Bejar's presence on this sucker?

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
April 6th 2023


32018 Comments


Zero I believe. Although I think he did co-write one or two songs.

someone
Contributing Reviewer
April 6th 2023


6563 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

the opening song was somewhat written by him in late 2000s, apparently. but he himself is not present. Newman just unearthed those old notes and demos and reworked them into a new thing

Gyromania
April 6th 2023


37015 Comments


RIP New Pornos

GrandpaFred
April 7th 2023


141 Comments


2 twee 4 me.

klap
Emeritus
April 7th 2023


12409 Comments


new pornos has basically become an AC Newman solo project after brill bruisers. which is still good stuff, but not the same

someone
Contributing Reviewer
April 7th 2023


6563 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

i'm okay with that, but he really is running thin on ideas. even when he is trying to do something new, he still ends up sounding old.



like let Neko Case run the show for once, she has more hit records

mvdu
April 8th 2023


992 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

As a huge fan of the band, I have to agree with a lot of what you said. There was always some subtlety and complexity in their music, but it didn’t sound that way. The sound was easily a joy to listen to. As you said, this album is really fussy. There are parts of good hooks and ideas but really nothing comes together. It feels labored as a result. You have to really listen to get anything enjoyable out of the music.

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2023


5444 Comments


you all really think that a user named "someone" is a real person? all these reviews are obviously ai generated. user "someone" should be banned

someone
Contributing Reviewer
June 18th 2023


6563 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Slander and lies



He is starting beef, but he won't even eat mean



Pathetic and weak



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