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Preview: The New Pornographers

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the power-pop champs coming to the Civic Theatre Nov. 7



First The New Pornographers were underrated (or as underrated as a supergroup can be); then maybe overrated (or as overrated as any group boasting the singer/songwriter hydra-head of A.C. Newman, Neko Case and Dan Bejar can be); then, on two personal yet distancing minors (2007's Challengers and 2010's Together) whose energies often waned like a fading star, underrated once again. In naming its sixth LP Brill Bruisers (Matador), the unchallenged power-pop champions of the new millennium take ratings out of the equation. What else would they deliver? Leave it to Case, the emotional core behind Newman's choral rush and Bejar's carny magic tricks, to sing as much on "Marching Orders": "They say we can't make this stuff up/ But what else would we make?" A better understanding of Bruisers' blueprints lies in the trio's solo records since Together: Newman and Case, on Shut Down the Streets and The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, each dealt with familial grief in very different ways, while Bejar cut Destroyer's ripest slice of sax cheese yet, Kaputt, soft-rock caricature by a genuine character. The odds against a forceful New Porno comeback weren't exactly steep, though an unceremonious breakup seemed just as likely. In that light, this return is equal parts oracle and miracle. Newman's titular opener and Case's "Champions of Red Wine" nail the neat trick of sounding at once futuristic and nostalgic; silvery and sparkling, they rival anything in Twin Cinema's master class of editing. Behar's harmonica charge "War On the East Coast" is his flashiest track, but "Born With a Sound," a death-in-the-bread-line duet with Black Mountain's Amber Webber, burrows deeper. Harmonic understudy (and Newman's niece) Kathryn Calder even gets a Christine McVie moment with the 90-second interlude "Another Drug Deal of the Heart," hitting heartstrings with felt hammers. (That's five lead vocalists, if you're counting.) Throughout the album, there's a running lyrical theme of coming back, of reuniting, of finding your way home. "I think we could save lives/ If we don't spend them," Case muses on "Champions." Either way, everyone wins. Slumberland heart-throbber The Pains of Being Pure At Heart opens. Tickets $25.

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