Mass Romantic (Mint)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Jan. 19, 2001
Mass Romantic (Mint)The New Pornographers are a group of Vancouver scenesters with an interesting indie pop pedigree. On their debut, Mass Romantic, songwriters Carl Newman (Zumpano) and Daniel Bejar (Destroyer) are joined by filmmaker Blaine Thurier, John Collins (Evaporators), Kurt Dahle (Limblifter), and insurgent country star Neko Case for a full-on frolic through the world of power pop. Nothing that any of these musicians have done in the past would prepare the listener for the wild ride they've achieved here, however. They borrow from Cheap Trick, the Beach Boys, Big Star, Roxy Music, Buzzcocks, and Robyn Hitchcock, and concoct a dizzying potion that sounds remarkably fresh and unlike anything that's come before it. Mass Romantic leads off with the riff-rocking title track that highlights Case, finding the Canadian chanteuse moving away from the twang she's become known for and into a mode that recalls Belinda Carlisle at her belt-it-out best. From there, the band travels from one brand of pop to another with a gifted ease. Standout tracks include the close harmonies and T-Rex-style boogie of "Letter to an Occupant," "Mystery Hours" with its hooky chorus and fuzz guitars, and the odd-yet-endearing combination of processed vocals and keyboards on "The Body Says No." As a whole, Mass Romantic is the type of album nobody makes anymore. It's an intricate and brightly colored gem, filled with sing-along melodies and sounds that shouldn't work together yet do.