Sometimes it’s a quick impulse to think of The New Pornographers as a sort of indie rock version of the Cerberus — but, to be sure, a fun cartoon version, A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Dan Bejar’s heads all branching off of the same rambunctious body. But that’s an impulse fueled by the fact that each of those three has delivered sterling solo material since the band’s 2000 debut, Mass Romantic, and that contributors Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Kurt Dahle, Todd Fancey, and Blaine Thurier are all artistic forces outside of their work with the Pornographers. True, Newman’s brainy pop, Case’s resonant warmth and introspective lyrics, and Bejar’s twitchy eccentricity are far more immediately recognizable (especially in retrospect), but this was a group effort from the very start.
And that is what sets The New Pornographers apart from the other bands we’d consider to be supergroups in recent years. Fourteen years into their tenure, and the recently released Brill Bruisers finds the entire outfit still all together and sounding as vibrant, fresh, and unified as ever. Whether you’re the person who came to the New Pornographers through a solo album or the other way around, the band proved to be a thrilling hub of the indie world, particularly in the ’00s, in which either a Pornographers album or a band member’s solo album seemed ready to win over the world with its own particular brand of charm.
Now six records into their joint tenure, and showing no signs of slowing down, the New Pornographers have superseded both the impulse to reduce them down to the concept of a collaboration of a couple of songwriters and of a supergroup. They’re just a band who happen to have other things on their plate when they’re not working together. Here’s to hoping that continues to be the case for a long while.